Plasticity in the Auditory System of Insects

  • Reinhard Lakes-Harlan
Part of the Springer Handbook of Auditory Research book series (SHAR, volume 23)


The term “plasticity” covers different aspects and mechanisms in the nervous system. It is, however, still not readily associated with insects for a number of reasons. First, insects often seem to have a stereotyped behavior. Second, scientists established the identified neuron concept, which implies that the very same nerve cells can be identified repeatedly by their function and morphology from individual to individual (Hoyle 1983). Both views led to the belief that information processing in the nervous systems of insects is hardwired rather than plastic. Despite this belief, early studies pointed out that at least some insects, such as bees, are capable of remarkable learning tasks (von Frisch 1914; Thorpe 1939; Horridge 1962; Alloway 1972). Learning, however, requires plastic changes in the nervous system. At present learning and memory are not only well established for different insects (for recent reviews see Hammer and Menzel 1995; Menzel and Müller 1996; Menzel 2001) but also genetically accessible in Drosophila (Dubnau and Tully 1998), making insects favorable model organisms, at least for this aspect of plasticity.


Auditory System Mushroom Body Auditory Neuron Calling Song Auditory Organ 
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