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Configural perception of a binary olfactory mixture in honey bees, as in humans, rodents and newborn rabbits

Abstract : How animals perceive and learn complex stimuli, such as mixtures of odorants, is a difficult problem, for which the definition of general rules across the animal kingdom remains elusive. Recent experiments conducted in human and rodent adults as well as newborn rabbits suggested that these species process particular odor mixtures in a similar, configural manner. Thus, the binary mixture of ethyl isobutyrate (EI) and ethyl maltol (EM) induces configural processing in humans, who perceive a mixture odor quality (pineapple) that is distinct from the quality of each component (strawberry and caramel). Similarly, rabbit neonates treat the mixture differently, at least in part, from its components. In the present study, we asked whether the properties of the EI.EM mixture extend to an influential invertebrate model, the honey bee Apis mellifera. We used appetitive conditioning of the proboscis extension response to evaluate how bees perceive the EI.EM mixture. In a first experiment, we measured perceptual similarity between this mixture and its components in a generalization protocol. In a second experiment, we measured the ability of bees to differentiate between the mixture and both of its components in a negative patterning protocol. In each experimental series, the performance of bees with this mixture was compared with that obtained with four other mixtures, chosen from previous work in humans, newborn rabbits and bees. Our results suggest that when having to differentiate mixture and components, bees treat the EI.EM in a robust configural manner, similarly to mammals, suggesting the existence of common perceptual rules across the animal kindgdom.
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Contributor : Gérard Coureaud <>
Submitted on : Monday, November 23, 2020 - 2:54:59 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, January 12, 2021 - 10:47:40 AM


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Marie-Anne Wycke, G. Coureaud, Thierry Thomas-Danguin, Jean-Christophe Sandoz. Configural perception of a binary olfactory mixture in honey bees, as in humans, rodents and newborn rabbits. Journal of Experimental Biology, Cambridge University Press, 2020, 223 (21), pp.jeb227611. ⟨10.1242/jeb.227611⟩. ⟨inserm-03007695⟩



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