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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Oct 2;104(40):15905-10. Epub 2007 Sep 24.

Circadian regulation of insect olfactory learning.

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Department of Biological Sciences, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA.


Olfactory learning in insects has been used extensively for studies on the neurobiology, genetics, and molecular biology of learning and memory. We show here that the ability of the cockroach Leucophaea maderae to acquire olfactory memories is regulated by the circadian system. We investigated the effect of training and testing at different circadian phases on performance in an odor-discrimination test administered 30 min after training (short-term memory) or 48 h after training (long-term memory). When odor preference was tested by allowing animals to choose between two odors (peppermint and vanilla), untrained cockroaches showed a clear preference for vanilla at all circadian phases, indicating that there was no circadian modulation of initial odor preference or ability to discriminate between odors. After differential conditioning, in which peppermint odor was associated with a positive unconditioned stimulus of sucrose solution and vanilla odor was associated with a negative unconditioned stimulus of saline solution, cockroaches conditioned in the early subjective night showed a strong preference for peppermint and retained the memory for at least 2 days. Animals trained and tested at other circadian phases showed significant deficits in performance for both short- and long-term memory. Performance depended on the circadian time (CT) of training, not the CT of testing, and results indicate that memory acquisition rather than retention or recall is modulated by the circadian system. The data suggest that the circadian system can have profound effects on olfactory learning in insects.

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