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Virulent bacterial infection improves aversive learning performance in Drosophila melanogaster.
Brain, Behavior, and Immunity
Virulent infections are expected to impair learning ability, either as a direct consequence of stressed physiological state or as an adaptive response that minimizes diversion of energy from immune defense. This prediction has been well supported for mammals and bees. Here, we report an opposite result in Drosophila melanogaster. Using an odor-mechanical shock conditioning paradigm, we found that intestinal infection with bacterial pathogens Pseudomonas entomophila or Erwinia c. carotovora improved flies' learning performance after a 1h retention interval. Infection with P. entomophila (but not E. c. carotovora) also improved learning performance after 5 min retention. No effect on learning performance was detected for intestinal infections with an avirulent GacA mutant of P. entomophila or for virulent systemic (hemocoel) infection with E. c. carotovora. Assays of unconditioned responses to odorants and shock do not support a major role for changes in general responsiveness to stimuli in explaining the changes in learning performance, although differences in their specific salience for learning cannot be excluded. Our results demonstrate that the effects of pathogens on learning performance in insects are less predictable than suggested by previous studies, and support the notion that immune stress can sometimes boost cognitive abilities.
Infection, Intestinal pathogens, Memory, Insects, Drosophila melanogaster, Psychoneuroimmunology
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