Its common knowledge that bees play an essential part in the process of pollination, which helps plants grow and produce food that we consume. However, it turns out bees can also potentially play a huge role in the understanding of how the human brain works.
A new study, conducted by researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand has found interesting similarities between the human brain and the brains of bees. In their study, the researchers noticed that the alpha oscillations in bees (the part of the brain responsible for attention, memory, and conciseness) displayed similar features to that of a human. They came to this realisation by using regular honey bees sourced from outdoor hives. The bees were then stimulated in the lab with specific odours, while microscopic electrodes recorded their brain activity.
According to Paul Szyszka, a professor of Zoology at Otago University “Because alpha oscillations are related to brain functions such as attention, memory, and consciousness, bee brains can provide new ways to understand how our brains work.”
Szyszka notes that experimenting on a humans brain is expensive, time-consuming, and logistically difficult to perform. He also notes that recordings from individual identified neurons aren’t yet possible in human brains. This is where the bees come in to play. Scientists would be able to overcome these limitations and apply what they have learned from the bees alpha oscillations to treat human patients in the future.
“It is fascinating to see how bees can learn to associate odours with food in a similar way to humans. What we want to do now is examine how these alpha oscillations change in different situations. As a neuroethologist, I’m interested in how bees’ alpha oscillations change during natural behaviors, for example when a bee forages or sleeps,” Szyszka says.