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Open Access Research article

Roles of octopaminergic and dopaminergic neurons in appetitive and aversive memory recall in an insect

Makoto Mizunami*, Sae Unoki, Yasuhiro Mori, Daisuke Hirashima, Ai Hatano and Yukihisa Matsumoto

Author Affiliations

Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Katahira 2-1-1, Aoba-ku, Sendai 980-8577, Japan

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BMC Biology 2009, 7:46  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-7-46

Published: 4 August 2009

Abstract

Background

In insect classical conditioning, octopamine (the invertebrate counterpart of noradrenaline) or dopamine has been suggested to mediate reinforcing properties of appetitive or aversive unconditioned stimulus, respectively. However, the roles of octopaminergic and dopaminergic neurons in memory recall have remained unclear.

Results

We studied the roles of octopaminergic and dopaminergic neurons in appetitive and aversive memory recall in olfactory and visual conditioning in crickets. We found that pharmacological blockade of octopamine and dopamine receptors impaired aversive memory recall and appetitive memory recall, respectively, thereby suggesting that activation of octopaminergic and dopaminergic neurons and the resulting release of octopamine and dopamine are needed for appetitive and aversive memory recall, respectively. On the basis of this finding, we propose a new model in which it is assumed that two types of synaptic connections are formed by conditioning and are activated during memory recall, one type being connections from neurons representing conditioned stimulus to neurons inducing conditioned response and the other being connections from neurons representing conditioned stimulus to octopaminergic or dopaminergic neurons representing appetitive or aversive unconditioned stimulus, respectively. The former is called 'stimulus-response connection' and the latter is called 'stimulus-stimulus connection' by theorists studying classical conditioning in higher vertebrates. Our model predicts that pharmacological blockade of octopamine or dopamine receptors during the first stage of second-order conditioning does not impair second-order conditioning, because it impairs the formation of the stimulus-response connection but not the stimulus-stimulus connection. The results of our study with a cross-modal second-order conditioning were in full accordance with this prediction.

Conclusion

We suggest that insect classical conditioning involves the formation of two kinds of memory traces, which match to stimulus-stimulus connection and stimulus-response connection. This is the first study to suggest that classical conditioning in insects involves, as does classical conditioning in higher vertebrates, the formation of stimulus-stimulus connection and its activation for memory recall, which are often called cognitive processes.