Optogenetic induction of aversive taste memory. Academic Article uri icon


  • The Drosophila melanogaster gustatory system consists of several neuronal pathways representing diverse taste modalities. The two predominant modalities are a sweet-sensing pathway that mediates attraction, and a bitter-sensing pathway that mediates avoidance. A central question is how flies integrate stimuli from these pathways and generate the appropriate behavioral response. We have developed a novel assay for induction of taste memories. We demonstrate that the gustatory response to fructose is suppressed when followed by the presence of bitter quinine. We employ optogenetic neural activation using infrared laser in combination with heat-sensitive channel - TRPA1 to precisely activate gustatory neurons. This optogenetic system allows for spatially and temporally controlled activation of distinct neural classes in the gustatory circuit. We directly activated bitter-sensing neurons together with presentation of fructose for remote induction of aversive taste memories. Here we report that activation of bitter-sensing neurons in the proboscis suffices as a conditioning stimulus. Spatially restricted stimulation indicates that the conditioning stimulus is indeed a signal from the bitter neurons in the proboscis and it is independent of postingestive feedback. The coincidence of temporally specific activation of bitter-sensing neurons with fructose presentation is crucial for memory formation, establishing aversive taste learning in Drosophila as associative learning. Taken together, this optogenetic system provides a powerful new tool for interrogation of the central brain circuits that mediate memory formation.

published proceedings

  • Neuroscience

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Keene, A. C., & Masek, P.

citation count

  • 46

publication date

  • October 2012