Odour intensity learning in fruit flies
Animals' behaviour towards odours depends on both odour quality and odour intensity. While neuronal coding of odour quality is fairly well studied, how odour intensity is treated by olfactory systems is less clear. Here we study odour intensity processing at the behavioural level, using the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. We trained flies by pairing a MEDIUM intensity of an odour with electric shock, and then, at a following test phase, measured flies' conditioned avoidance of either this previously trained MEDIUM intensity or a LOWer or a HIGHer intensity. With respect to 3-octanol, n-amylacetate and 4-methylcyclohexanol, we found that conditioned avoidance is strongest when training and test intensities match, speaking for intensity-specific memories. With respect to a fourth odour, benzaldehyde, on the other hand, we found no such intensity specificity. These results form the basis for further studies of odour intensity processing at the behavioural, neuronal and molecular level. © 2009 The Royal Society.