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Third-party-funded project

Neuronal plasticity in the brain of social Hymenoptera: mechanisms and importance for polyethism

Project management at the University of Würzburg:

Participating scientists:

Caste or group specific differences in behavior (polyethism) represent an important prerequisite for the division of labor in insect colonies. Social insects, therefore, are excellent model systems to study neuronal plasticity. We investigate developmental and adult synaptic plasticity in olfactory centers of the honeybee and carpenter ant to gain knowledge about fundamental mechanisms of structural synaptic plasticity and its consequences for olfactory behavior. Effects of brood care (feeding, thermoregulation), social interactions, activity and age on synaptic maturation and plasticity provide excellent tools to study the sources of interindividual variance in the brain and behavior. Neuronal and molecular tracers, immunocytochemistry techniques and high resolution confocal microscopy techniques are used to visualize and quantify changes in pre- and postsynaptic compartments within olfactory centers. We discovered that f-actin is highly enriched in dendritic spines of intrinsic mushroom body neurons (Kenyon cells) and investigate the contribution of f-actin dynamics in dendritic plasticity during sensitive periods of enhanced synaptic plasticity.

Key words:
    Neuronal Plasticity

Projekt period: from 07.2006 to 06.2010

Funding institution:
DFG ( SFB 554 ) ,Granting date: Juli 2006