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J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2013 Nov;199(11):947-62. doi: 10.1007/s00359-013-0805-y. Epub 2013 May 17.

Octopamine modulates activity of neural networks in the honey bee antennal lobe.

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Neurobiologie, Universität Konstanz, 78457, Constance, Germany.


Neuronal plasticity allows an animal to respond to environmental changes by modulating its response to stimuli. In the honey bee (Apis mellifera), the biogenic amine octopamine plays a crucial role in appetitive odor learning, but little is known about how octopamine affects the brain. We investigated its effect in the antennal lobe, the first olfactory center in the brain, using calcium imaging to record background activity and odor responses before and after octopamine application. We show that octopamine increases background activity in olfactory output neurons, while reducing average calcium levels. Odor responses were modulated both upwards and downwards, with more odor response increases in glomeruli with negative or weak odor responses. Importantly, the octopamine effect was variable across glomeruli, odorants, odorant concentrations and animals, suggesting that the octopaminergic network is shaped by plasticity depending on an individual animal's history and possibly other factors. Using RNA interference, we show that the octopamine receptor AmOA1 (homolog of the Drosophila OAMB receptor) is involved in the octopamine effect. We propose a network model in which octopamine receptors are plastic in their density and located on a subpopulation of inhibitory neurons in a disinhibitory pathway. This would improve odor-coding of behaviorally relevant, previously experienced odors.

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