Animal Cognition

, Volume 17, Issue 5, pp 1177–1186 | Cite as

Peak shift in honey bee olfactory learning

  • Samuel C. Andrew
  • Clint J. Perry
  • Andrew B. Barron
  • Katherine Berthon
  • Veronica Peralta
  • Ken Cheng
Original Paper


If animals are trained with two similar stimuli such that one is rewarding (S+) and one punishing (S−), then following training animals show a greatest preference not for the S+, but for a novel stimulus that is slightly more different from the S− than the S+ is. This peak shift phenomenon has been widely reported for vertebrates and has recently been demonstrated for bumblebees and honey bees. To explore the nature of peak shift in invertebrates further, here we examined the properties of peak shift in honey bees trained in a free-flight olfactory learning assay. Hexanal and heptanol were mixed in different ratios to create a continuum of odour stimuli. Bees were trained to artificial flowers such that one odour mixture was rewarded with 2 molar sucrose (S+), and one punished with distasteful quinine (S−). After training, bees were given a non-rewarded preference test with five different mixtures of hexanal and heptanol. Following training bees’ maximal preference was for an odour mixture slightly more distinct from the S− than the trained S+. This effect was not seen if bees were initially trained with two distinct odours, replicating the classic features of peak shift reported for vertebrates. We propose a conceptual model of how peak shift might occur in honey bees. We argue that peak shift does not require any higher level of processing than the known olfactory learning circuitry of the bee brain and suggest that peak shift is a very general feature of discrimination learning.


Peak shift Mushroom body Olfaction Discrimination learning Honey bee 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Samuel C. Andrew
    • 1
  • Clint J. Perry
    • 1
  • Andrew B. Barron
    • 1
  • Katherine Berthon
    • 1
  • Veronica Peralta
    • 1
  • Ken Cheng
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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