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Séminaire - Martin GiurfaSearching for the neural bases of non-elemental learning in a miniature brain

Abstract :

Honeybees possess miniature brains but exhibit a sophisticated behavioral repertoire. In the last decades, bees have emerged as useful models for the study of the neural bases of simple forms of associative learning based on their capacity to learn elemental, univocal links between olfactory or visual stimuli and appetitive sucrose reinforcement. Yet, recent works have reported the existence of unsuspected cognitive capabilities in these insects, which require an explanatory level beyond that of elemental learning. I will discuss some of these findings, focusing on capabilities such as attentional modulation, non-elemental pattern discrimination and concept learning, and discuss their mechanistic bases in an attempt to trace them down to specific circuitries and neuromodulatory processes in the insect brain. In doing this, I will highlight experimental challenges and suggest future directions for investigating the neurobiology of higher-order learning in insects, with the goal of uncovering basic neural architectures underlying cognitive processing.


Sauvons les abeilles ! Les abeilles sont des pollinisateurs majeurs qui connaissent un déclin important et pour lequel personne n’a encore de solution claire. La possibilité que nous entrions en période de crise de pollinisation, où le rendement des cultures s’effondre en raison d’une pollinisation insuffisante, a de sérieuses consequences pour la production alimentaire, la biodiversité et par conséquent la santé humaine. Notre équipe seule n’est pas en mesure de sauver les abeilles, mais nous espérons qu’en étudiant leur cerveaux et comportements nous pourrons aider à mieux comprendre ces phénomènes et à augmenter l’attention que ces insectes méritent.


Selected publications

Can honey bees discriminate between floral-fragrance isomers? Aguiar JMRBV, Roselino AC, Sazima M, Giurfa M. J Exp Biol. 2018 May 24. pii: jeb.180844. doi: 10.1242/jeb.180844. [Epub ahead of print]

Aminergic neuromodulation of associative visual learning in harnessed honey bees.
Mancini N, Giurfa M, Sandoz JC, Avarguès-Weber A. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2018 May 21. pii: S1074-7427(18)30125-4. doi: 10.1016/j.nlm.2018.05.014. [Epub ahead of print]

Lateralization of Sucrose Responsiveness and Non-associative Learning in Honeybees. Baracchi D, Rigosi E, de Brito Sanchez G, Giurfa M. Front Psychol. 2018 Mar 28;9:425. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00425. eCollection 2018.

Pheromones modulate responsiveness to a noxious stimulus in honey bees.Rossi N, d'Ettorre P, Giurfa M.J Exp Biol. 2018 Mar 13;221(Pt 5). pii: jeb172270. doi: 10.1242/jeb.172270.