Behavioral and neurobiological studies of visual learning in honey bees (Apis mellifera) in virtual reality

Abstract : Free flying bees are known for their impressive visual cognition abilities, but the neural bases underlying those are poorly studied because of the difficulty to explore the brain in a flying insect. Conversely, it is possible to have access to the brain with tethered bees but, until now, no studies explored visual learning. To bypass this limitation, our aim was to establish a virtual reality device to test visual learning in tethered bees. First, bees were tested for their abilities to learn to discriminate colors according to the reinforcement associated to each of them. These experiments allowed to highlight the role of the active vision in virtual reality and the importance of phototaxis in this kind of device. Driven by these good results, we explored the non- elementary visual learning in bees and, more specifically, the negative patterning. The results suggest that bees were able to resolve this task in virtual reality despite its complexity. Finally, using the protocol of color discrimination, the brain activation has been explored during a color memory recall thanks to a quantification of immediate early genes considered as neural markers. This thesis provides two solid virtual reality protocols to study elementary and non-elementary visual learning in honey bees. This constitutes a huge advance and will allow to go further towards the understanding of the neural bases of simple and complex visual learning.
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Alexis Buatois. Behavioral and neurobiological studies of visual learning in honey bees (Apis mellifera) in virtual reality. Animal biology. Université Paul Sabatier - Toulouse III, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018TOU30173⟩. ⟨tel-02307339⟩

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