Short- and long-term memories formed upon backward conditioning in honeybees (Apis mellifera)

Johannes Felsenberg, Jenny Aino Plath, Steven Lorang, Laura Morgenstern, Dorothea Eisenhardt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


In classical conditioning, the temporal sequence of stimulus presentations is critical for the association between the conditioned stimulus (CS) and the unconditioned stimulus (US). In forward conditioning, the CS precedes the US and is learned as a predictor for the US. Thus it acquires properties to elicit a behavioral response, defined as excitatory properties. In backward conditioning, the US precedes the CS. The CS might be learned as a predictor for the cessation of the US acquiring inhibitory properties that inhibit a behavioral response. Interestingly, behavior after backward conditioning is controlled by both excitatory and inhibitory properties of the CS, but the underlying mechanisms determining which of these opposing properties control behavior upon retrieval is poorly understood. We performed conditioning experiments in the honeybee (Apis mellifera) to investigate the CS properties that control behavior at different time points after backward conditioning. The CS properties, as characterized by the retardation or enhancement of subsequent acquisition, were examined 30 min and 24 h after backward conditioning. We found that 30 min after backward conditioning, the CS acquired an inhibitory property during backward conditioning depending on the intertrial interval, the number of trials, and the odor used as the CS. One day after backward conditioning, we observed significant retardation of acquisition. In addition, we demonstrated an enhanced, generalized odor response in the backward conditioned group compared to untreated animals. These results indicate that two long-lasting opposing memories have been formed in parallel: one about the excitatory properties of the CS and one about the inhibitory properties of the CS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-45
Number of pages9
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


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