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Roles of Octopamine and Dopamine Neurons for Mediating Appetitive and Aversive Signals in Pavlovian Conditioning in Crickets

Roles of Octopamine and Dopamine Neurons for Mediating Appetitive and Aversive Signals in Pavlovian Conditioning in Crickets

Frontiers in Physiology 8: 1027

Revealing neural systems that mediate appetite and aversive signals in associative learning is critical for understanding the brain mechanisms controlling adaptive behavior in animals. In mammals, it has been shown that some classes of dopamine neurons in the midbrain mediate prediction error signals that govern the learning process, whereas other classes of dopamine neurons control execution of learned actions. In this review, based on the results of our studies on Pavlovian conditioning in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus and by referring to the findings in honey bees and fruit-flies, we argue that comparable aminergic systems exist in the insect brain. We found that administrations of octopamine (the invertebrate counterpart of noradrenaline) and dopamine receptor antagonists impair conditioning to associate an olfactory or visual conditioned stimulus (CS) with water or sodium chloride solution (appetitive or aversive unconditioned stimulus, US), respectively, suggesting that specific octopamine and dopamine neurons mediate appetitive and aversive signals, respectively, in conditioning in crickets. These findings differ from findings in fruit-flies. In fruit-flies, appetitive and aversive signals are mediated by different dopamine neuron subsets, suggesting diversity in neurotransmitters mediating appetitive signals in insects. We also found evidences of "blocking" and "auto-blocking" phenomena, which suggested that the prediction error, the discrepancy between actual US and predicted US, governs the conditioning in crickets and that octopamine neurons mediate prediction error signals for appetitive US. Our studies also showed that activations of octopamine and dopamine neurons are needed for the execution of an appetitive conditioned response (CR) and an aversive CR, respectively, and we, thus, proposed that these neurons mediate US prediction signals that drive appetitive and aversive CRs. Our findings suggest that the basic principles of functioning of aminergic systems in associative learning, i.e., to transmit prediction error signals for conditioning and to convey US prediction signals for execution of CR, are conserved among insects and mammals, on account of the fact that the organization of the insect brain is much simpler than that of the mammalian brain. Further investigation of aminergic systems that govern associative learning in insects should lead to a better understanding of commonalities and diversities of computational rules underlying associative learning in animals.

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Accession: 065491842

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PMID: 29311961

DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2017.01027

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