A New Look at a Bumblebee’s Brain

Researchers have released new and high-detailed images of a bumblebees brain that reveal the regions that are linked to learning and memory.

Bumblebees are particularly fascinating because of their ability to perform high complex tasks. Latest advancements in Macro-CT technology have given scientists at the Natural History Museum and Imperial College London an insight into how they are able to carry out these more advanced behaviours such as remembering the location of a food source.

This new method of brain analysis, published in Scientific Reports, allows researchers to view the complete and undamaged brain, which wouldn’t be achieved using the conventional method of dissection. Richard Gill from Imperial College London who was involved in the study said, “It’s a fantastic way to look inside insect brains. We can look at the brain as it naturally sits in the bee’s head, without the human error of having to extract it.”

This new insight into bumblebee brain structure could help scientists identify why bee species across the world are declining and if, like in humans, small damage to the brain leads to dramatic changes in behaviour. As bees play an important role in our ecosystems as pollinators, in-depth studies of their behaviour is essential to see what changes prevent them from carrying out this crucial role.

Acknowledgements:

Imperial College London – Bee brains as you have never seen them before.

Natural History Museum – Miniature brain scans hold key to understanding bee behaviour

‘Exploring miniature insect brains using micro-CT scanning techniques’ by Dylan Smith, Galina Bernhardt, Nigel Raine, Richard Abel, Dan Sykes,Farah Ahmed, Inti Pedroso, & Richard Gill is published in Scientific Reports.

Image by Dylan B Smith

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