Octopamine modulates activity of neural networks in the honey bee antennal lobe

Julia Rein, Julie A. Mustard, Martin Strauch, Brian Smith, C. Giovanni Galizia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Neuronal plasticity allows an animal to respond to environmental changes by modulating its response to stimuli. In the honey bee (Apis mellifera), the biogenic amine octopamine plays a crucial role in appetitive odor learning, but little is known about how octopamine affects the brain. We investigated its effect in the antennal lobe, the first olfactory center in the brain, using calcium imaging to record background activity and odor responses before and after octopamine application. We show that octopamine increases background activity in olfactory output neurons, while reducing average calcium levels. Odor responses were modulated both upwards and downwards, with more odor response increases in glomeruli with negative or weak odor responses. Importantly, the octopamine effect was variable across glomeruli, odorants, odorant concentrations and animals, suggesting that the octopaminergic network is shaped by plasticity depending on an individual animal's history and possibly other factors. Using RNA interference, we show that the octopamine receptor AmOA1 (homolog of the Drosophila OAMB receptor) is involved in the octopamine effect. We propose a network model in which octopamine receptors are plastic in their density and located on a subpopulation of inhibitory neurons in a disinhibitory pathway. This would improve odor-coding of behaviorally relevant, previously experienced odors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)947-962
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A: Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Calcium imaging
  • Insects
  • Octopamine
  • Olfaction
  • Plasticity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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