Flies Evolve to Count (not)
By Hayley Dunning
Researchers breed fruit flies that, after 40 generations of conditioning, have acquired the ability to react to numbers.
The pairing of the light stimulus and shaking seems unlikely to elicit any transgenerational epigenetic effects on neuro-architecture. Operant conditioning (i.e., training) is unlike classical conditioning in this regard. For example, epigenetic effects on intracellular signaling and stochastic gene expression allow Pavlovian conditioning / classical conditioning to directly effect behaviors that help to establish organisms in their ecological niche. That’s how nutrient chemicals are responsible for the ecological niche construction that precedes social niche construction and survival of species, which is controlled by the metabolism of nutrient chemicals to the pheromones that control reproduction in species from microbes to man.
The ecological and social niche contribute to the neurogenic niche in invertebrates that allows nutrient chemicals and pheromones to contribute to adaptive evolution by promoting brain changes (e.g., in neuro-architecture) that are passed on to offspring via transgenerational epigenetic inheritance. Vertebrate evolution proceeds along these same lines: ecological, social, neurogenic, but we begin to see some additional epigenetic effects of nutrient chemicals and pheromones because both alter the more highly evolved hypothalamic neurogenic niche that is responsible for vertebrate species survival and the development of our socio-cognitive niche.
Where do others think is the best place to look for changes in neuro-architecture caused by training? Is there a model for that?