Caffeine Boosts Bees' Memories
Lars Chittka, and
Psychology Division, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, UK.
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Caffeine junkies of the wild? (A) Honeybees often consume caffeinated drinks from discarded cans. Wright et al. show that some plants manipulate the memory of bees by adding caffeine to their nectar. (B) Various antennal odorant receptor types, each responsive to specific chemicals, send information to the mushroom bodies via the antennal lobes (12). A ventral unpaired neuron (VUMmx1) mediating the sucrose reward signal also connects to mushroom bodies (9). [Adapted from (6)] (C) In the odor-learning circuitry in the bee brain, projection neurons connect to Kenyon cells in the mushroom bodies (12). As Wright et al. show (2), simultaneous input to Kenyon cells from olfactory and reward pathways might strengthen synaptic connections between Kenyon cells and output neurons and between projection neurons and Kenyon cells. Caffeine increases transmission at the synapses between projection neurons and Kenyon cells and also enhances Kenyon cell excitability, facilitating the formation of longterm memories for floral scents (2).|
PHOTO CREDITS: (PANEL A) AZIZ ALMUTAIRI/UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS; MICROGRAPH (PANEL B), AXEL BROCKMANN/NCBS BANGALORE