The Robinson Lab

Changes in the Structure of the Mushroom Bodies and Antennal Lobes (with the laboratory of Prof. Susan Fahrbach)

How does a bee's brain support the striking changes in behavior that take place during maturation? A small part of the answer lies in the mushroom bodies, a brain region thought to be the center of learning and memory in insects. We discovered about a 20% increase in the volume of a specific area of the mushroom bodies as worker honey bees mature. This volume increase occurs in a mushroom-body subregion where synapses, or connections, are made between neurons from other brain regions that are devoted to sensory input. This was the first report of such brain plasticity in an invertebrate, and it was particularly exciting because volume increases in brain regions in vertebrates reflect increases in certain cognitive abilities. The increase in the mushroom bodies might be learning-related.

Representative Publications

Farris SM, Robinson GE, Fahrbach SE (2001) Experience- and age-related outgrowth of intrinsic neurons in the mushroom bodies of the adult worker honey bee. J. Neurosci. 21:6395-6404. (pdf)