Data for research article: "Visual associative learning in Wood Ants"

This data set contains the raw data used in the accepted manuscript "Visual associative learning in wood ants", by the Journal of Experimental Biology.

In these experiments, wood ants followed a paired or unpaired classical conditioning training that used a visual cue as the conditional stimulus (CS) and sucrose as the unconditional stimulus. These ants were tested either 10 minutes or 1 hour after training. The data set contains the ants' responses to the CS during training and testing, which consist in the Maxilla-Labium Extension Reflex. This is divided in three types of responses, depending on the mouth structures visible and their movement. Responses are noted as 1 if positive and 0 if negative (no response).

Abstract from research paper
Wood ants are a model system for studying visual learning and navigation. They can forage for food and navigate to their nests effectively by forming memories of visual features in their surrounding environment. Previous studies of freely behaving ants have revealed many of the behavioural strategies and environmental features necessary for successful navigation. However, little is known about the exact visual properties of the environment that animals learn or the neural mechanisms that allow them to achieve this. As a first step towards addressing this, we developed a classical conditioning paradigm for visual learning in harnessed wood ants that allows us to control precisely the learned visual cues. In this paradigm, ants are fixed and presented with a visual cue paired with an appetitive sugar reward. Using this paradigm, we found that visual cues learnt by wood ants through Pavlovian conditioning are retained for at least one hour. Furthermore, we found that memory retention is dependent upon the ants’ performance during training. Our study provides the first evidence that wood ants can form visual associative memories when restrained. This classical conditioning paradigm has the potential to permit detailed analysis of the dynamics of memory formation and retention, and the neural basis of learning in wood ants.