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Dipl.-Biol. Inga Fuchs

PhD Candidate

Neural correlates of decision making in bumble bees in a laboratory environment

(PhD project)

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 from 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 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 the free choice where to go and what they will do next. In the test arena they have the choice between four different feeding spots, one with food. They learn to spot this feeder relative to a local color cue and to the panorama. In addition, bees may experience a color signal at the entrance to the test arena that indicates to them which color cue is rewarding at a particular situation (matching-to-sample). The aim of my study is to search for neuronal neural correlates of both basic properties of navigation (path integration, target orientation) as well as high order cognitive performance involved in navigation according to the pattern of the panorama and to the stimulus at the entrance to the arena.