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Elife. 2014 Aug 19;3:e02395. doi: 10.7554/eLife.02395.

Shared mushroom body circuits underlie visual and olfactory memories in Drosophila.

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Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany.
Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, United States.
Max-Planck-Institute of Neurobiology, Martinsried, Germany Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan


In nature, animals form memories associating reward or punishment with stimuli from different sensory modalities, such as smells and colors. It is unclear, however, how distinct sensory memories are processed in the brain. We established appetitive and aversive visual learning assays for Drosophila that are comparable to the widely used olfactory learning assays. These assays share critical features, such as reinforcing stimuli (sugar reward and electric shock punishment), and allow direct comparison of the cellular requirements for visual and olfactory memories. We found that the same subsets of dopamine neurons drive formation of both sensory memories. Furthermore, distinct yet partially overlapping subsets of mushroom body intrinsic neurons are required for visual and olfactory memories. Thus, our results suggest that distinct sensory memories are processed in a common brain center. Such centralization of related brain functions is an economical design that avoids the repetition of similar circuit motifs.


associative memory; dopamine neurons; visual learning

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