Macquarie University
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Neuroethological analysis of visually oriented behavior in honey bees

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posted on 2022-03-28, 14:41 authored by Jenny Aino Plath
The honey bee is an excellent navigator and visual learner, but we know little how and why it performs so well. Two regions of the honey bee brain are crucial for learning and memory and in orientation in space - the mushroom bodies (MBs) and the central complex (CX). Both regions process major sensory input of different modalities. The mushroom bodies are key regions for associative learning. The CX plays a major role in processing visual input to generate a representation of orientation in relation to the environment and regulates motor output. My aim is to understand the role the MBs, the CX and adjacent regions of the protocerebrum play in visual learning, locomotion and orientation in the honey bee. I present how neuropharmacological manipulation in free-moving and restrained bees can be used to investigate behaviour. The key method for the studies described in this thesis was microinjection of the local and reversible anaesthetic procaine into the investigated brain regions. In the first experimental study, I explored the role of the mushroom bodies and the central complex in an aversive visual learning assay. I concluded that the mushroom bodies and the central complex both contributed to the behavioural response to a learned visual stimulus. In the second study, I investigated what role the MBs and the CX play in modifying locomotion and orientation to a visual stimulus. I found that reducing neural activity in one MB calyx by procaine-injections led to lower walking speed and a lower number of walking bouts compared to controls. Injections with procaine into the CX and the adjacent protocerebrum led to an increase in turning in dark conditions compared t ocontrols. Using a new visual sequence learning assay, I present that honey bees can anticipate an upcoming light in a light sequence of three lights with experience. This behaviour was impaired after procaine-injections into the CX and the adjacent protocerebrum. In my final review chapter I discuss how recent research corroborates the CX as key structure for generation and reading of the waggle dance. Finally, I discuss how my findings contribute to understanding of how visual information is processed and integrated by the insect brain to generate the appropriate motor response.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Chapter I. Current progress in understanding the functions of the insect central complex -- Chapter II. Neuropharmacological manipulation of restrained and free-flying honey bees, Apis mellifera -- Chapter III.Different roles for honey bee mushroom bodies and central complex in visual learning of colored lights in an aversive conditioning assay -- Chapter IV. Different central brain regions regulate locomotion, spatial orientation and orientation learning in honey bees -- Chapter V. The evolution of honey bee dance communication: a mechanistic perspective -- Conclusions and outlook -- Appendices.


"Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia Includes bibliographical references Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany" -- title page. Thesis by publication.

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Department of Biological Sciences

Department, Centre or School

Department of Biological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Andrew B. Barron

Additional Supervisor 1

C. Giovanni Galizia


Copyright Jenny Aino Plath 2017. Copyright disclaimer:




1 online resource (xi, 252, A1-A37 pages) colour illustrations

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