Projet Biodiversa

Lionel Garnery (Evolbee) a reçu un financement de l’Europe pour son projet BeeHope.  Ce projet dure 3 ans et commence le 01/01/2015.

Pour lire le résumé du projet (en anglais) cliquer ici.


 Projet ERC

L’équipe EPCC a reçu un financement de l’Europe pour son projet dont Frédéric Méry est le coordinateur.

Résumé du projet

Memory (i.e. the ability to store and retrieve information) plays a crucial role in the development of an animal’s behaviour within its lifespan and is often important for its survival and reproductive success. Memory is itself a product of evolution and the degree to which information is maintained in the brain varies among species and among different types of behaviour. Findings from vertebrate behavioural pharmacology have challenged the traditional view of memory formation as a direct flow from short-term to long-term storage. Evidence points instead to an intricate, multiphase pathway of memory consolidation. Different components of memory emerge at different times after the event to be memorized has taken place. In addition, their duration and times of onset can vary with different tasks and species.
For most of the 20th century, memory has not figured in « mainstream » evolutionary research. However, for an evolutionary biologist these findings raise the question of the functional and evolutionary relationships among, as well as the genetic basis of, these different components of memory.
The central part of the project is the study of the sources of memory variation. Using Drosophila as a model system, we investigate how genetic variation, environmental and developmental factors may affect specifically some memory phases and how these variations may depend on the type of cognitive task performed by the individual. As an example, we found that flies artificially selected for improvement of a specific consolidated memory phase showed a decrease of other memory phases suggesting a potential evolutionary trade off between the different memory components. Such genetic trade-off may impact on the evolution of cognitive capacities. Environmental factors are also well known to affect phenotypic traits. We investigate the effect of social interaction on individual memory capacities and found that some memory phases were particularly sensitive to the social environment and this environmental effect was dependent on a mutation at the foraging locus. Finally, variation in learning and memory are likely to depend on developmental factors. In human, children born to older parents tend to have lower intelligence and are at higher risk for disorders such as schizophrenia and autism. Such observations of ageing damage being passed on from parents to offspring are not often considered within the evolutionary theory of ageing and explanatory factors are difficult to isolate especially in human. In Drosophila, we observed a 25% decrease of a specific memory phase due solely to the age of the parents. We are at present trying to understand the genetic and neural bases of this parental age effect.
To extend these results and understand how the dynamic of the different memory phases may be sensitive to the type of cognitive task performed, we are currently developing new learning protocols involving other sensory and neuronal pathways. As an example, we developed a social learning protocol in which flies have to use public information to choose a suitable oviposition site. This type of experiment opens new perspectives on the study of the genetic and neural bases of social learning.

Taken altogether these results suggest a strong interplay of factors to mold the development and plasticity of the different memory phases. The study of this interplay is fundamental for a better understanding of the evolution of animal cognition.