Event Abstract

Hierarchical visual representations enhance complex pattern learning in honeybees (Apis mellifera)

  • 1 RMIT University, Australia
  • 2 Monash University, Physiology, Australia
  • 3 Université de Toulouse, Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, France

Traditional views of insect vision use parameterised high-contrast stimuli and assume both simple reflexive responses to stimuli and an incapacity to configure pattern elements in a unified percept [1]; but such models cannot account for the wide range of very complex visual discriminations that the bee visual system masters with continued experience [2-6]. We test the learning of configured flower patterns, or non-configured elements. Bees were trained with differential conditioning to discriminate similar [2-5] flower stimuli, scrambled or high contrast stimuli (Fig. 1). After 12 trials (36 bees/group) only the correctly configured 'normal' contrast flower stimuli were learnt to a level significantly different from chance expectation (*1 sample t-test, df35, p<0.05). This shows that (i) bees use top-down information [7,8] to help solve complex, biologically relevant visual tasks, (ii) learning of patterns as configurations is facilitated with respect of that of their unconnected elements, and (iii) the visual system and brain of the bee is better adapted to learning complex natural stimuli.

Figure 1. Four independent groups of bees were individually trained to the stimuli (rows 1&3) in the respective columns (e.g. one group of bees learnt flowers in column 1). The stimuli are complex and contain similar low level cues [2-5], represented here by the FFT of stimuli (rows 2&4 under stimuli). Only configured flowers of ‘normal’ contrast were learnt (mean choice frequency +/-S.E.M.).

Figure 1


A.G.D. is grateful to the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the Australian
Research Council [DP0878968/ 0987989] for funding support.


[1] Horridge 2009 J Exp Biol 212:2721-2729. [2] Wu et al. 2012 J Comp Physiol A 199, 45-55. [3] Avarguès- Weber et al. 2010 J Exp Biol 213:593-601. [4] Zhang et al. 2004 J Exp Biol 207:3289-3298. [5] Dyer et al. 2008 J Exp Biol 211:1180-1186. [6] Stach et al. 2004 Nature 429:758-761. [7] Lehrer et al. 1995 Philos Trans Royal Soc Lond B 347, 123-137. [8] Zhang & Srinivasan 1994 Nature 368: 330-332.

Keywords: Configural processing, differential conditioning, Flowers, contrast, Similarity

Conference: International Conference on Invertebrate Vision, Fjälkinge, Sweden, 1 Aug - 8 Aug, 2013.

Presentation Type: Oral presentation preferred

Topic: Eye design, optics and spatial vision

Citation: Dyer AG, Avargues-Weber A, Reser DH, Rosa MG and Giurfa M (2019). Hierarchical visual representations enhance complex pattern learning in honeybees (Apis mellifera). Front. Physiol. Conference Abstract: International Conference on Invertebrate Vision. doi: 10.3389/conf.fphys.2013.25.00042

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Received: 25 Feb 2013; Published Online: 09 Dec 2019.

* Correspondence: Dr. Adrian G Dyer, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia, adrian.dyer@rmit.edu.au