Neural correlates of decision making in bumble bees in a laboratory environment
The topic of my work is the analysis of neural correlates of the bumblebee Bombus terrestris while they are navigating through a virtual environment and making decision based on their spatial memory.
The extracellular recordings are made at the mushroom body extrinsic neurons and are recorded for long periods of times while the animal is still behaving naturally. The mushroom body is known for receiving important sensory information and it is involved in consolidating and retrieving the bee’s memory. It is a high order integration center in the bee’s brain and also very important for the successful completion of navigational tasks.
The wings of the bumblebees are modified so they won’t fly but walk between the test arena and their hive. They have always the free choice in where they go and what they will do next. In the test arena they have the choice between four different feeding spots. As far as they only get food at one place, they have to retrieve their memory, which they formed in practice cycles, and find the right spot with the help of the virtual environment. There will also be tasks, where the bumble bee has to make a choice before entering the test arena and with that without seeing any environment or local cue. The cue will then be in the entrance to the test arena.
The aim of this study is to find the neuronal bases of both basic properties of navigation (path integration, target orientation) as well as such high order cognitive performance as local learning with the help of a learned geometric map.