Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin have discovered a novel kind of learning gene

01.08.2008
Scientists at the Freie Universität Berlin have come one step closer to unraveling the molecular basis of learning. A team led by neurobiologist Björn Brembs has discovered the first gene for operant conditioning in the fruit fly Drosophila.

Their discovery suggests a novel kind of molecular learning mechanism. The study, published in the journal "Current Biology", may help understanding the molecular processes underlying addiction.

For the last 80 years, science has distinguished two forms of associative learning: classical and operant conditioning. Classical conditioning denotes the kind of learning made famous by the Russian physiologist I.P. Pavlov, who trained dogs to salivate in response to the tone of a bell by always feeding the animals after he rang the bell. About 20 years later, the American psychologist B.F. Skinner trained rats to press a lever for a reward - operant conditioning.

Until now, it was assumed that these and many other types of learning relied on a set of well-known learning related genes. This assumption has now been questioned by the results from the scientists in Berlin. Brembs and his team at the Institute for Biology of the Freie Universität Berlin studied the learning performance of genetically engineered fruit flies in a flight simulator.

... more about:
»Brembs »Molecular »conditioning »flies »operant

In the first experiment, the cylindrical drum within which the fly was flying was illuminated alternatingly in blue and green. With, say, blue illumination the flies also received an aversive heat stimulus. This treatment resulted in an avoidance of the color blue.

In a second experiment, the colors and heat were coupled to the turning attempts of the fly such that the blue illumination and heat was always turned on when the fly was attempting to turn right. Thus, similar to Skinner's rats, the flies had the opportunity to actively learn to behave in a certain way - in this case to turn left to avoid being heated.

In a third experiment the scientists tested purely operant learning (behavioral learning). This was done by removing the color stimulus. The fly was still heated when it attempted to turn right, but now there were no colors presented any more.

Flies where the well-known group of learning genes had been manipulated failed miserably in the first to experiments. However, in the third experiments, they learned even better than normal flies.

So far it was assumed that all forms of associative learning rely on the already known set of learning related genes, so Brembs: "Our studies show that the prominent learning genes are not playing any role in purely behavioral learning. Our results suggest that Pavlovian learning somehow suppresses behavioral learning."

Importantly, genetically engineered flies in which the enzyme "protein kinase C" was inhibited, showed an impairment in the purely behavioral third experiment, while they were normal in the other two learning tasks. Brembs posits that the operant, protein kinase C-dependent learning mechanism also underlies so-called "habit formation", which is implied in the acquisition of a drug-taking habit. If that were the case, the development of compulsive drug-taking could be slowed down or even prevented by medication interfering with the protein kinase C pathway.

Whether the same molecular learning mechanisms discovered by Brembs in flies also exist in mammals and maybe even in humans, is still unknown. "To find this out, one would need equivalent studies in mice or rats."

For further information please contact:

Björn Brembs
bjoern@brembs.net, http://brembs.net
Institut für Biologie - Neurobiologie
Freie Universität Berlin
Königin-Luise-Strasse 28/30, 14195 Berlin, Germany
+49-(0)308-385-5050 (lab+office), +49-(0)308-385-5455 (fax)

Christa Beckmann | idw
Further information:
http://www.fu-berlin.de
http://brembs.net/rut-pkc

Further reports about: Brembs Molecular conditioning flies operant

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>