New Study Shows How Bee’s Brain Functions to Guide It Home

Image result for Megalopta genalisBees use their vision to navigate, but until now little was known about what happens inside their brains — which are smaller than a grain of rice — as they perform this task. “Polarized-light-based compass neurons and optic-flow-based speed-encoding neurons are located in a part of the bee brain called the central complex,” the study authors explained. “We found this region plays a pivotal role in controlling the navigation system — known as path integration or ‘dead reckoning’ — which is used by many animals, including bees, ants and humans.”

Dr. Heinze and colleagues unraveled the complex workings of the system by studying the brains of tropical nocturnal bees Megalopta genalis. Their results, together with microscope studies of how the nerve cells are connected, were used to develop a detailed computer model of the bee’s brain. “Understanding such a complex behavior at the level of single neurons is an important step forward for the science of brain function.”

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