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 Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles
19.10.2018 | University of Vienna

nachricht Less animal experiments on the horizon: Multi-organ chip awarded
19.10.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Werkstoff- und Strahltechnik IWS

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Goodbye, silicon? On the way to new electronic materials with metal-organic networks

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research (MPI-P) in Mainz (Germany) together with scientists from Dresden, Leipzig, Sofia (Bulgaria) and Madrid (Spain) have now developed and characterized a novel, metal-organic material which displays electrical properties mimicking those of highly crystalline silicon. The material which can easily be fabricated at room temperature could serve as a replacement for expensive conventional inorganic materials used in optoelectronics.

Silicon, a so called semiconductor, is currently widely employed for the development of components such as solar cells, LEDs or computer chips. High purity...

Im Focus: Storage & Transport of highly volatile Gases made safer & cheaper by the use of “Kinetic Trapping"

Augsburg chemists present a new technology for compressing, storing and transporting highly volatile gases in porous frameworks/New prospects for gas-powered vehicles

Storage of highly volatile gases has always been a major technological challenge, not least for use in the automotive sector, for, for example, methane or...

Im Focus: Disrupting crystalline order to restore superfluidity

When we put water in a freezer, water molecules crystallize and form ice. This change from one phase of matter to another is called a phase transition. While this transition, and countless others that occur in nature, typically takes place at the same fixed conditions, such as the freezing point, one can ask how it can be influenced in a controlled way.

We are all familiar with such control of the freezing transition, as it is an essential ingredient in the art of making a sorbet or a slushy. To make a cold...

Im Focus: Micro energy harvesters for the Internet of Things

Fraunhofer IWS Dresden scientists print electronic layers with polymer ink

Thin organic layers provide machines and equipment with new functions. They enable, for example, tiny energy recuperators. In future, these will be installed...

Im Focus: Dynamik einzelner Proteine

Neue Messmethode erlaubt es Forschenden, die Bewegung von Molekülen lange und genau zu verfolgen

Das Zusammenspiel aus Struktur und Dynamik bestimmt die Funktion von Proteinen, den molekularen Werkzeugen der Zelle. Durch Fortschritte in der...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Conference to pave the way for new therapies

17.10.2018 | Event News

Berlin5GWeek: Private industrial networks and temporary 5G connectivity islands

16.10.2018 | Event News

5th International Conference on Cellular Materials (CellMAT), Scientific Programme online

02.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nanocages in the lab and in the computer: how DNA-based dendrimers transport nanoparticles

19.10.2018 | Life Sciences

Thin films from Braunschweig on the way to Mercury

19.10.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

App-App-Hooray! - Innovative Kits for AR Applications

19.10.2018 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>