BACKGROUND - Aversive olfactory classical conditioning has been the standard method to assess Drosophila learning and memory behavior for decades, yet training and testing are conducted manually under exceedingly labor-intensive conditions. To overcome this severe limitation, a fully automated, inexpensive system has been developed, which allows accurate and efficient Pavlovian associative learning/memory analyses for high-throughput pharmacological and genetic studies.
NEW METHOD - The automated system employs a linear actuator coupled to an odorant T-maze with airflow-mediated transfer of animals between training and testing stages. Odorant, airflow and electrical shock delivery are automatically administered and monitored during training trials. Control software allows operator-input variables to define parameters of Drosophila learning, short-term memory and long-term memory assays.
RESULTS - The approach allows accurate learning/memory determinations with operational fail-safes. Automated learning indices (immediately post-training) and memory indices (after 24h) are comparable to traditional manual experiments, while minimizing experimenter involvement.
COMPARISON WITH EXISTING METHODS - The automated system provides vast improvements over labor-intensive manual approaches with no experimenter involvement required during either training or testing phases. It provides quality control tracking of airflow rates, odorant delivery and electrical shock treatments, and an expanded platform for high-throughput studies of combinational drug tests and genetic screens. The design uses inexpensive hardware and software for a total cost of ∼$500US, making it affordable to a wide range of investigators.
CONCLUSIONS - This study demonstrates the design, construction and testing of a fully automated Drosophila olfactory classical association apparatus to provide low-labor, high-fidelity, quality-monitored, high-throughput and inexpensive learning and memory behavioral assays.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.