Recent studies of olfactory blocking have revealed that binary odorant mixtures are not always processed as though they give rise to mixture-unique configural properties. When animals are conditioned to one odorant (A) and then conditioned to a mixture of that odorant with a second (X), the ability to learn or express the association of X with reinforcement appears to be reduced relative to animals that were not preconditioned to A. A recent model of odor-based response patterns in the insect antennal lobe predicts that the strength of the blocking effect will be related to the perceptual similarity between the two odorants, i.e. greater similarity should increase the blocking effect. Here, we test that model in the honeybee Apis mellifera by first establishing a generalization matrix for three odorants and then testing for blocking between all possible combinations of them. We confirm earlier findings demonstrating the occurrence of the blocking effect in olfactory learning of compound stimuli. We show that the occurrence and the strength of the blocking effect depend on the odorants used in the experiment. In addition, we find very good agreement between our results and the model, and less agreement between our results and an alternative model recently proposed to explain the effect.

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