Modulation of olfaction by recurrent centrifugal connections after olfactory-visual convergence in the honeybee

Multisensory integration is central to perception as the natural environment is always represented via different sensory modalities. How brains extract relevant features in a multisensory context and combine individual modalities with experience to form a common percept is only partially understood. In the olfactory system, parallel processing and recurrent modulatory connections with high-order integration centres determine the representation of the olfactory world at different processing stages. The goal of this project is to elucidate context- and experience-related modulation along the insect olfactory pathway. The foraging ecology and neurobiology of the honeybee offer a favourable experimental model for investigating recurrent interactions between the antennal lobes, the primary olfactory centres, and integration centres in the mushroom body and lateral horn. Honeybees have a close relationship with flowering plants where they collect nectar and pollen. Here, olfaction and vision represent the most prominent sensory input channels during foraging. We hypothesize that mushroom body output neurons mediate visual context and previous experience via long-range recurrent modulation within the olfactory pathway, particularly at the level of the antennal lobe and lateral horn. We will test this by combining long-term multi-unit electrophysiology and neuroanatomical tracing of circuits with behavioural experiments and in vivo calcium imaging. Our goal is to understand general principles of olfactory perception within a foraging-related multisensory context and following experience.