Honeybees brains 'wired up very efficiently'

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Sydney, June 4 : Honeybees have an extraordinary memory power, suggests a new study.

The study led by researchers from University of New England in Armidale, Australia and University of Trento in Italy has shown that honeybees are able to remember the scent of the flowers they visit by allocating different types of memory to their pinsized brains.

They found that bee brains are divided into two halves with different functions in a way that is reminiscent of the hemispheres of the human brain.

For the study, Emeritus Professor Lesley Rogers of the University of New England and Professor Giorgio Vallortigara, of the University of Trento trained bees to associate a pleasant sweet taste with a lemon scent and an unpleasant salty taste with a vanilla scent.

The bees were also trained to stick out their proboscis when they smelt lemon, but not when they smelt vanilla.

The researchers also tested the memory when one of their two antennae was out of action.

Both the researchers coated either the left or right antenna of the bees with a latex-based substance to stop it from detecting odour.

"When we asked the bee to recall with its left antenna coated, it could recall the memory of the two scents for up to about three hours, but it wasn't as good thereafter," ABC Online quoted Rogers, as saying.

"On the other hand, if we coated the right antenna and tested its recall, then initially it didn't do well, but after six hours it could recall," she added.

The same pattern held true when the researchers simply held the scents to the left or right sides of the bee, rather than coating one of their antennae.

The findings revealed that the right antenna and the associated brain structures form the basis for a short-term and relatively temporary memory, while the left antenna supports long-term learning.

Rogers said if compared to humans or other large animals, bee brains are incredibly simple.

"Yet with that very simple brain they can do extraordinarily complex things. They can do amazing learning feats that we never thought possible before.

"Obviously they're wired up very efficiently, these bee brains."

"There's probably something quite essential about having the right and left sides controlling different functions and being differentially involved in memory formation," she added.

ANI

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