Bee brains find face images

Discussion in 'Breeding, Raising, Feeding and Caring for Animals' started by Michaelangelica, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. Michaelangelica

    Michaelangelica Junior Member

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    Extraordinary insights into miniature brain activity

    29 January 2010
    Dr Adrian Dyer

    International research, supervised by Monash University bee expert Dr Adrian Dyer, has revealed fascinating new insights into how the honeybee's tiny brain can learn to recognise complex stimuli like the human face.

    The research shows that bees can recognise the configuration of human faces, not just the outline or simple features within it.

    A vision scientist, Dr Dyer has been researching visual responses and facial recognition in bees for the past six years, said the latest findings published in the Journal of Experimental Biology were a very significant insight into how non-primate brains learn complex spatial patterns.

    "We discovered that bees distinguish face-like configurations. Bees learned through experience to look for a specific configuration of the different features, eyes, nose and mouth," Dr Dyer said.

    "Although human faces aren't important to bees, that they were able to recognise configurations and integrate visual features suggests that they do have an ability to reliably recognise very complex images, even in noisy or cluttered conditions.

    "These are currently very challenging tasks for machine vision, and perhaps we can learn some tricks from the bees for teaching robots," Dr Dyer said

    Dr Dyer, together with Professor Martin Giurfa, supervised the research, which was conducted at Monash University and in France by Universite de Toulouse PhD student Aurore Avargues-Weber.

    Using faces that were made up of two dots for eyes, a short vertical dash for a nose and a longer horizontal line for a mouth, Avargues-Weber trained individual bees to distinguish between a variety of different pattern types to establish which cues were registered. Bees were rewarded with sweet tasting sucrose solution to build a configural representation of which facial features were recognised. A range of separate experiments with real face images confirmed that configural processing was the main cue used to solve complex spatial vision tasks.

    "The bees were able to learn the face images, not because they know what a face is but because they had learned the relative arrangement and order of facial features. When we tried rearranging the facial images by moving the eyes, nose and mouth, the bees no longer recognised the images as faces and treated them like unknown patterns.

    "The project is an example of a very successful international collaboration where we have been able to use both Northern and Southern Hemisphere summer conditions to collect the extensive amount of data required to answer the scientific question and in the process share a range of important scientific ideas and skills between universities," Dr Dyer said.

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