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1 Janelia Publications

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    06/05/17 | Drosophila courtship conditioning as a measure of learning and memory.
    Koemans TS, Oppitz C, Donders RA, van Bokhoven H, Schenck A, Keleman K, Kramer JM
    Journal of Visualized Experiments - Neuroscience . 2017-06-05(124):e55808. doi: 10.3791/55808

    Many insights into the molecular mechanisms underlying learning and memory have been elucidated through the use of simple behavioral assays in model organisms such as the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogasterDrosophila is useful for understanding the basic neurobiology underlying cognitive deficits resulting from mutations in genes associated with human cognitive disorders, such as intellectual disability (ID) and autism. This work describes a methodology for testing learning and memory using a classic paradigm in Drosophilaknown as courtship conditioning. Male flies court females using a distinct pattern of easily recognizable behaviors. Premated females are not receptive to mating and will reject the male's copulation attempts. In response to this rejection, male flies reduce their courtship behavior. This learned reduction in courtship behavior is measured over time, serving as an indicator of learning and memory. The basic numerical output of this assay is the courtship index (CI), which is defined as the percentage of time that a male spends courting during a 10 min interval. The learning index (LI) is the relative reduction of CI in flies that have been exposed to a premated female compared to naïve flies with no previous social encounters. For the statistical comparison of LIs between genotypes, a randomization test with bootstrapping is used. To illustrate how the assay can be used to address the role of a gene relating to learning and memory, the pan-neuronal knockdown of Dihydroxyacetone phosphate acyltransferase (Dhap-at) was characterized here. The human ortholog of Dhap-atglyceronephosphate O-acyltransferase (GNPT), is involved in rhizomelic chondrodysplasia punctata type 2, an autosomal-recessive syndrome characterized by severe ID. Using the courtship conditioning assay, it was determined that Dhap-at is required for long-term memory, but not for short-term memory. This result serves as a basis for further investigation of the underlying molecular mechanisms.

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