A CAT scan of a bee brain

27 Jan


A bee brain is tiny, yet it has amazing computational power.

Using a technique called  micro-computed tomography, a group of researches have produced CAT scan images of the brain of a bumble bee. You can see them here.

Why is this important? The authors explain:

Despite their comparatively small size, insect brains are capable of rapidly detecting and responding to a plethora of diverse stimuli in a wide range of sensory modalities, facilitating their global ecological success and establishing them as an essential model system for cognitive biology and neuroscience. Although insect brains are smaller and simpler than their vertebrate counterparts, there is increasing evidence that insect cognitive performance can be impressive. For instance, foraging insects must learn and memorise navigation routes in complex landscapes requiring the ability to detect, distinguish and integrate a multitude of chemical, visual, landmark and celestial cues. Therefore, knowledge of insect brain structure allows us to understand how comparatively small (and simple) brains can generate complex patterns of behaviour and act as a gateway to understanding more complex brains and their evolutionary development. Indeed, variation in the volume of brain regions (examined using histological techniques) has been reported to be linked to differences in innate responses to stimuli, age/experience related behavioural transitions behavioural syndromes and rates of learning and performance in cognitive tasks. Yet, there remains much to discover about how insect brain structure relates to individual behaviour. Closing such a fundamental knowledge gap requires the development of new imaging protocols and the application of novel strategies to measure, record and robustly quantify aspects of brain morphology across multiple individuals.


4 Responses to “A CAT scan of a bee brain”

  1. Enrique Guerra-Pujol January 28, 2017 at 10:42 am #

    Fascinating. I would to see an ant brain next…

    • Kathy H January 28, 2017 at 3:49 pm #

      I will digress by telling a lobster fun fact – a lobster has the brain the size of a pea and its brain is located in its throat!!

  2. yogibattle January 30, 2017 at 4:39 pm #

    As I was in my garden the other day a bee flew into a male cucumber flower, then instinctively flew into a female cucumber flower to pollinate. It is as if the bee was hardwired to know how to pollinate the flower. Shortly after the cucumber starting growing. Prior to that morning I had not seen any bees in my garden and haven’t seen any since. I think nature is much more intelligent than we humans are capable of perceiving. Many blessings for this post!

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