Automated high-throughput individual tracking system for insect behavior: Applications on memory retention in parasitic wasps

Jessica A.C. de Bruijn*, Louise E.M. Vet, Maarten A. Jongsma, Hans M. Smid

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Insects are important models to study learning and memory formation in both an ecological and neuroscience context due to their small size, behavioral flexibility and ecological diversity. Measuring memory retention is often done through simple time-consuming set-ups, producing only a single parameter for conditioned behavior. We wished to obtain higher sample sizes with fewer individuals to measure olfactory memory retention more efficiently. New method: The high-throughput individual T-maze uses commercially available tracking software, Ethovision XT®, in combination with a Perspex stack of plates as small as 18 × 18 cm, which accommodates 36 olfactory T-mazes, where each individual wasp could choose between two artificial odors. Various behavioral parameters, relevant to memory retention, were acquired in this set-up; first choice, residence time, giving up time and zone entries. From these parameters a performance index was calculated as a measure of memory retention. Groups of 36 wasps were simultaneously tested within minutes, resulting in efficient acquisition of sufficiently high sample sizes. Results: This system was tested with two very different parasitic wasp species, the larval parasitoid Cotesia glomerata and the pupal parasitoid Nasonia vitripennis, and has proven to be highly suitable for testing memory retention in both these species. Comparison with existing methods: Unlike other bioassays, this system allows for both high-throughput and recording of detailed individual behavior. Conclusions: The high-throughput individual T-maze provides us with a standardized high-throughput, labor-efficient and cost-effective method to test various kinds of behavior, offering excellent opportunities for comparative studies of various aspects of insect behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-217
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Methods
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


  • Cotesia glomerata
  • Learning
  • Memory retention
  • Nasonia vitripennis
  • Parasitic wasps
  • Tracking system


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