Guo, AK (reprint author), Chinese Acad Sci, Shanghai Inst Biol Sci, Inst Neurosci, Key Lab Neurobiol, Shanghai 200031, Peoples R China,firstname.lastname@example.org
Previous exposure to a pattern in the visual scene can enhance subsequent recognition of that pattern in many species from honeybees to humans. However, whether previous experience with a visual feature of an object, such as color or shape, can also facilitate later recognition of that particular feature from multiple visual features is largely unknown. Visual feature extraction is the ability to select the key component from multiple visual features. Using a visual flight simulator, we designed a novel protocol for visual feature extraction to investigate the effects of previous experience on visual reinforcement learning in Drosophila. We found that, after conditioning with a visual feature of objects among combinatorial shape-color features, wild-type flies exhibited poor ability to extract the correct visual feature. However, the ability for visual feature extraction was greatly enhanced in flies trained previously with that visual feature alone. Moreover, we demonstrated that flies might possess the ability to extract the abstract category of "shape" but not a particular shape. Finally, this experience-dependent feature extraction is absent in flies with defective MBs, one of the central brain structures in Drosophila. Our results indicate that previous experience can enhance visual feature extraction in Drosophila and that MBs are required for this experience-dependent visual cognition.