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Research shows bees might create cognitive maps

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Posted June 4, 2014
Research shows bees might create cognitive maps
Similar flight speed and accuracy of bees with (red) and without (blue) clock-shifting. Credit: James F. Cheeseman

How do bees find their way home? Until now, scientists thought bees navigated by calculating their position relative to that of the sun. Randolf Menzel of the Free University of Berlin and colleagues tested this hypothesis by disrupting bees’ circadian clocks. They found bees were able to navigate successfully, despite being unable to use the sun as an aid, suggesting that bees create cognitive maps. The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

To get to the store and back without getting lost, you use a cognitive map. Mammals, and possibly all vertebrates, create cognitive maps, which they update constantly, by remembering landmarks and storing information about their locations in their brains. A cognitive map allows you to point toward your home, even when you’re in a windowless room.

Creating a cognitive map is a complex mental task. Scientists believe we form cognitive maps in a part of the brain known as the hippocampus. Bees have tiny brains and nothing resembling a hippocampus. Therefore, scientists thought they must not use cognitive maps and depend on the  to guide them instead.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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