The company you keep influences what you learn

Posted by ap507 at Nov 21, 2013 05:00 PM |
Research into desert locusts discovers how your environment shapes your thinking
The company you keep influences what you learn

Image credits: Tom Fayle, University of Cambridge

Desert locusts are notorious for their devastating swarms when food is scarce.

However, they do not always live in swarms — they switch between a lone living ‘solitary phase' and a swarming ‘gregarious’ phase. The two phases differ profoundly in looks, behaviour and in their life style.

Academics from the University have teamed up with academics from Sussex and Cambridge to show how the environment shapes learning and memory, through training locusts - in a manner that recalls the conditioning of Pavlov's dogs - to associate different smells, either vanilla or lemon, with reward or punishment.

The results show how brains do not solve problems ‘in a vacuum’ but in interaction with the environment.

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