Effects of caffeine on olfactory and visual learning in the Honey bee (Apis mellifera)

Aung Si, Shao Zhang, Ryszard Maleszka

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Although caffeine is known to improve alertness and arousal in humans and other mammals, its impacts on specific behaviours, including complex cognitive processes, remain controversial. We reasoned that the availability of an easily manipulable, but behaviourally complex invertebrate organism with a simpler nervous system would be beneficial to this field of research. We used a popular behavioural model, the honeybee, to evaluate the effects of caffeine on (1) the development of olfactory learning and (2) the performance in complex learning paradigms, including a 'delayed-match-to-sample' task and visual associative learning. To evaluate the efficacy of caffeine treatment, a variety of doses (0.4-400 ng/1 mg of body mass) were applied topically to tethered individuals. Behavioural testing was performed with either tethered or free-flying adult honeybees. We show that caffeine has marked cognitive effects in this species. In young honeybees, it reduces the age at which restrained individuals are able to learn an olfactory associative task, whereas in older, free-flying bees, caffeine improves both motivation and cognitive performance in complex learning tasks. Our results suggest that the honeybee model may be useful in explaining caffeine-related behavioural changes not only in this species, but also in mammalian systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)664-672
    JournalPharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


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