Research Topic

The Mechanisms of Insect Cognition

About this Research Topic

‘‘… there may be extraordinary activity with an extremely small absolute mass of nervous matter; thus the wonderfully diversified instincts, mental powers, and affections of ants are notorious, yet their cerebral ganglia are not so large as the quarter of a small pin’s head. Under this point of view, the ...

‘‘… there may be extraordinary activity with an extremely small absolute mass of nervous matter; thus the wonderfully diversified instincts, mental powers, and affections of ants are notorious, yet their cerebral ganglia are not so large as the quarter of a small pin’s head. Under this point of view, the brain of an ant is one of the most marvelous atoms of matter in the world, perhaps more so than the brain of man.’’ Darwin 1871

The above quote illustrates the long-held fascination by biologists with insects and their behaviors. These animals possess miniature nervous systems, with a low number of neurons, but exhibit sophisticated and complex behavior. Numerous insect species learn various cues as predictors of reward or punishment. The neural circuits underlying such capabilities are only seemingly simple and exhibit an exquisite architecture.

The last 15 years have generated a wealth of information on cognitive function in insects. This includes work on attention-like processes, categorization of visual stimuli (for example symmetrical vs. asymmetrical ones), concept learning, context learning, sequence and social learning and numerosity.

These results raise a fundamental question: how do insects generate such complexity with so few neurons? In this Research Topic, we aim at presenting novel findings and breakthrough approaches in the field of studies on insect cognition. Contributions should cover a broad spectrum of analyses, from behavioral quantifications of cognitive behavior in insects, to analyses of the neural circuits and molecular architectures responsible for cognition. Neural computation models accounting for cognitive processing based on minimal neural architectures will be also welcome.

In this way, our Research Topic aims at expanding the information available on insect cognition focusing and at highlighting the mechanisms that underlie cognition in a miniature nervous system.


Keywords: cognition, insects, learning, memory, behavior, neurobiology, modeling


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

01 March 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

01 March 2018 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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