Immune response inhibits associative learning in insects

Eamonn B. Mallon, Axel Brockmann, Paul Schmid-Hempel


In vertebrates, it is well established that there are many intricate interactions between the immune system and the nervous system, and vice versa. Regarding insects, until now little has been known about the link between these two systems. Here, we present behavioural evidence indicating a link between the immune system and the nervous system in insects. We show that otherwise non–infected honeybees whose immune systems are challenged by a non–pathogenic immunogenic elicitor lipopolysaccharide (LPS) have reduced abilities to associate an odour with sugar reward in a classical conditioning paradigm. The cost of an immune response therefore not only affects survival of the host, as previously shown, but also everyday behaviour and memory formation.

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