Guo, AK (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, State Key Lab Neurosci, Inst Neurosci, 320 Yueyang Rd, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China,email@example.com
The brain mechanisms by which animals deal with multiple experiences to predict outcomes are not yet fully understood. We explored the choice strategies that flies use to assess degrees of disadvantage, as well as how flies weigh past and recent experiences to guide decisions. Drosophila were exposed to two conditioning events in a T-maze: an odor paired with an electric shock followed by a second odor paired with an electric shock of a different intensity. Subsequently, flies were forced to choose between the two odors. We found that flies chose to avoid the more 'dangerous' odor by a linear subtraction mechanism that was based on two coexisting memories. We also found that flies weighed experiences of the same danger level (60 V electric shocks) according to the times when the experiences had occurred. More recent experiences had a greater impact and past experiences gradually became 'overlooked' during decisions as the time delay between the two events lengthened. However, the past memory was not so much disrupted as it was overshadowed by recent memories during decisions. Finally, when a past experience was more disadvantageous, wild-type flies were able to coordinate both the temporal factor and the degree of disadvantage into their decisions. By contrast, amnesiac mutant flies made choices completely according to the temporal factor, ignoring the degree of disadvantage. Taken together, wild-type flies are able to store multiple olfactory memories and can coherently evaluate learned experiences to guide their decisions according to the degree of disadvantage and/or the temporal factor.