6.6. Perspectives for aversive conditioning

When conducting aversive conditioning studies control groups are critical. In situations where the bee must discriminate between two stimuli, one of which is associated with an aversive stimulus, some way of randomizing the two stimuli must be used. One way is to present a pseudo-random sequence consisting of A, B, B, A, B, A, A, B with A being the stimulus followed by the aversive event and B the stimulus not followed by with the aversive event. If A, for example, is the conditioned stimulus associated with the shock (also known as the CS+) and B is the conditioned stimulus not followed by shock (also known as the CS-) the sequence would be CS+, CS-, CS-, CS+, CS-, CS+, CS+, CS-. If more trials are needed, the sequence is repeated. This pseudo-random sequence will also work with discriminative stimuli. The intervals between the stimuli should be 10 minutes to minimize any carryover effects between the stimuli.

When exploring aversive conditioning in honey bees, researchers should consider several points:

  • Punishment leads to a decrease in behaviour, while avoidance leads to an increase (Abramson, 1997; Abramson et al., 2011)
  • There is a large need for individual data, because there are few examples of individual learning curves of aversive conditioning with invertebrates, which are important for modelling aversive learning (Abramson and Stepanov, 2012)
  • Researchers are encouraged to develop new aversive conditioning protocols and to provide parametric data on the effect of training variables for comparative studies