New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 16 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:

Spontaneous Recovery of the Injured Higher Olfactory Center in the Terrestrial Slug Limax:

Of all organs and tissues in adult mammals, the brain shows the most limited regeneration and recovery after injury. This is one reason why treating neurological damage such as ischemic injury after stroke presents such a challenge. Here we report a novel mode of regeneration which the slug’s cognitive center, the procerebrum, shows after surgical lesioning in the adult. It is well known that the land slug Limax possesses the capacity to demonstrate conditioned food aversion. This learning ability critically depends on the procerebrum, which is the higher olfactory center in the brain of the terrestrial mollusk. In the present study, after a 1-month recovery period post-surgical lesioning of the procerebrum we investigated whether the brain of the slug shows recovery from damage. We found that learning ability, local field potential oscillation, and the number of cells in the procerebrum (PC) all recovered spontaneously within 1 month of bilateral lesioning of the PC. Moreover, neurogenesis was enhanced in the lesioned PC. However, memory acquired before the surgery could not be retrieved 1 month after surgery although the procerebrum had recovered from injury by this time, consistent with the notion that the procerebrum is the storage site of odor-aversion memory, or deeply involved in the memory recall process. Our findings are the first to demonstrate that a brain region responsible for the associative memory of an adult organism can spontaneously reconstitute itself, and can recover its function following injury.

Honeybees Learn Odour Mixtures via a Selection of Key Odorants:

The honeybee has to detect, process and learn numerous complex odours from her natural environment on a daily basis. Most of these odours are floral scents, which are mixtures of dozens of different odorants. To date, it is still unclear how the bee brain unravels the complex information contained in scent mixtures. This study investigates learning of complex odour mixtures in honeybees using a simple olfactory conditioning procedure, the Proboscis-Extension-Reflex (PER) paradigm. Restrained honeybees were trained to three scent mixtures composed of 14 floral odorants each, and then tested with the individual odorants of each mixture. Bees did not respond to all odorants of a mixture equally: They responded well to a selection of key odorants, which were unique for each of the three scent mixtures. Bees showed less or very little response to the other odorants of the mixtures. The bees’ response to mixtures composed of only the key odorants was as good as to the original mixtures of 14 odorants. A mixture composed of the other, non-key-odorants elicited a significantly lower response. Neither an odorant’s volatility or molecular structure, nor learning efficiencies for individual odorants affected whether an odorant became a key odorant for a particular mixture. Odorant concentration had a positive effect, with odorants at high concentration likely to become key odorants. Our study suggests that the brain processes complex scent mixtures by predominantly learning information from selected key odorants. Our observations on key odorant learning lend significant support to previous work on olfactory learning and mixture processing in honeybees.

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