Research: Learning and Memory in Social Insects

The ability to form robust, long-term memories about their environment is a distinctive trait of social insects. My lab studies visual and olfactory, associative and non-associative learning in ants. Associative learning in insects is typically driven by repeated and spaced training, is long-term, depends on protein synthesis and is facilitated by different molecules and cells than non-associaitve learning. Non-associative learning in contrast, is driven more typically by serial training, is short-mid term and occurs independently of protein sythesis. We are currently using pharmacological techniques to identify the molecules involved in associaitve and non-associative learning, as well as the molecules that regulate different phases of learning such as memory formation and memory retrieval. In addition, we are using fluorescent tracers and markers to map connections between cells in the olfactory system and to study physiological changes that occur in th the brain as a result of learning. For some examples of recent students' projects see the Student Research page

Antennal nerve, back filled with fluorescent dextran, terminating in the antennal lobe.

Relevant Publications


McClevish, H., Carr, M., Loyola, K. and Robertson, K. (2014) Molecular Regulation of Olfactory Associative and non-Associative Memory Formation and Memory Retrieval in Pogonomyrmex and Camponotus Ants . In preparation

Coates, K. and Robertson, K. (2013) Muscarininc Acetylcholine Receptors are Required for Nestmate-Odor Memory Retrieval but not for Olfaction in Harvester Ants. BIOS, 84 (3), 158-164

Cook, S. and Robertson, K. (2009) Dark-reared Drosophila melanogaster Adapt to their Environment by Acetylcholine-driven Changes in Olfactory Sensitivity. Proceedings of the Society for Comparative Cognition 8 (7) 10-12

Gong, L., Puri, M., Unlu, M., Young, M., Robertson, K., Viswanathan, S., Krishnaswamy, A., Dowd, S. R. and Minden, J. S. (2004) Drosophila Ventral Furrow Morphogenesis: a Proteomic Analysis. Development 131; 643-656

Robertson, K., Mergliano, J. and Minden, J. S. (2003) Dissecting Drosophila Embryonic Brain Development using Photoactivated Gene Expression. Dev. Biol. 260, 124-137

Robertson, K. and Mason, I (1997) The GDNF-RET Signaling Partnership. Trends in Genetics, 13 (1) 1-3

Robertson K. Mason I. J. and Hall S. M. (1997) Familial Hirschsprung’s disease: genetic mutations in mice and men.  Gut, 41, 436-44

Robertson, K. and Mason, I (1995) Expression of ret in the Chicken Embryo Suggests Roles for Regioanlization of the Neural Tube and Somites, and in the Development of Mutiple Neural Crest and Placodal Lineages. Mech. Dev. 53. 329-344