Home > Papers from 2016 > Age-dependent development of the visual system

Age-dependent development of the visual system

The age dependent task partitioning that is a feature of many social insects means that the neural circuits needed for foraging can have a delayed development in order to save physiological resources. In many cases the trigger for those circuits to begin development is light. Here we see another example of light triggered changes in the visual system, that seem to be related to foraging and learning.
Abstract: ” Camponotus rufipes workers are characterized by an age-related polyethism. In the first weeks of adult life, young workers perform tasks inside the nest before they switch to multimodal foraging tasks outside. We tested the hypothesis that this transition is accompanied by profound adaptations in the peripheral and central visual system. Our results show that C. rufipes workers of all tested ages (between 1-42 days) express three genes encoding for ultraviolet (UV), blue (BL) and long wavelength (LW) sensitive opsins in their retina, which are likely to provide the substrate for trichromatic color vision. Expression levels of all three opsin genes increased significantly within the first two weeks of adulthood and following light exposure. Interestingly, the volumes of all three optic neuropils (lamina, medulla, lobula) showed corresponding volume increases. Tracing of connections to higher visual centers in the mushroom bodies (MBs) revealed only one optic pathway, the anterior superior optic tract, emerging from the medulla and sending topographically segregated input to the MB-calyx collar. The MB collar volumes and densities of synaptic complexes (microglomeruli, MGs) increased with age. Exposure to light for 4 days induced a decrease in MG densities followed by an increase after extended light exposure. This shows that plasticity in retinal opsin gene expression and structural neuroplasticity in primary and secondary visual centers comprise both ‘experience-independent’ and ‘experience-dependent’ elements. We conclude that both sources of plasticity in the visual system represent important components promoting optimal timing of the interior-forager transition and flexibility of age-related division of labor.”
Yilmaz, A., Lindenberg, A., Albert, S., Grübel, K., Spaethe, J., Rössler, W. and Groh, C., 2016. Age‐related and light‐induced plasticity in opsin gene expression and in primary and secondary visual centers of the nectar‐feeding ant Camponotus rufipes. Developmental neurobiology.
Categories: Papers from 2016
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