Effects of experience on the physiology of taste discrimination in insects
It is well established that experience alters connectivity in the central nervous system, producing long-lasting changes in behaviour. However, experience can also modify the way sensory systems transduce information from the surrounding environment, and this too can have long-lasting behavioural effects. The molecular and cellular bases of experience-induced modifi cations in sensory systems and their effects on the central nervous system to shape behaviour are poorly understood. Currently, the readily available genome databases of several animals offer the excellent opportunity to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms of sensory plasticity in the neural circuitry controlling their behaviours. Insects, with their relatively simple neural circuitry are excellent model systems for understanding in detail the mechanisms of sensory plasticity. Among the sensory modalities, taste plays a critical role in the lives of insects. A diversity of behaviours such as feeding choices, oviposition sites and mate selection, all critical for fi tness, utilise taste information. In this chapter, we will focus on the experience-induced modifi cations of the peripheral nervous system that control taste discrimination in insects. Other model organisms will be discussed in less detail in the context of common mechanisms of taste transduction and coding.