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Drinking water is innately rewarding to thirsty animals. In addition, the consumed value can be assigned to behavioral actions and predictive sensory cues by associative learning. Here we show that thirst converts water avoidance into water-seeking in naive Drosophila melanogaster. Thirst also permitted flies to learn olfactory cues paired with water reward. Water learning required water taste and <40 water-responsive dopaminergic neurons that innervate a restricted zone of the mushroom body γ lobe. These water learning neurons are different from those that are critical for conveying the reinforcing effects of sugar. Naive water-seeking behavior in thirsty flies did not require water taste but relied on another subset of water-responsive dopaminergic neurons that target the mushroom body β' lobe. Furthermore, these naive water-approach neurons were not required for learned water-seeking. Our results therefore demonstrate that naive water-seeking, learned water-seeking and water learning use separable neural circuitry in the brain of thirsty flies.

Original publication




Journal article


Nat Neurosci

Publication Date





1536 - 1542


Animals, Conditioning, Classical, Dopaminergic Neurons, Drosophila melanogaster, Memory, Mushroom Bodies, Reinforcement, Psychology, Reward, Thirst, Water