: Understanding the bee-line: the visual and neural mechanisms of insect navigation

Speaker: Barbara Webb, University of Edinburgh

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Bees are famous for their ability to take a direct route, either back to the hive after a circuitous search for food, or between known food sources, and to communicate the location of food to nestmates through the waggle dance. Although it has been known from many years of behavioural experiments that insects use visual cues such as polarised sky-light and optic flow to support such navigation behaviours, we have only recently gained insight into the underlying neural processing.

We have used computational modelling to bridge the gap from behaviour to neural mechanisms. This has revealed a suprisingly elegant circuit that effectively performs vector addition and subtraction to support a wide range of efficient spatial behaviours. Most recently, we have proposed the first neurally grounded account of how nestmates can assimilate a vector from following a dance. The models are strongly constrained by neuroanatomy, and are tested in realistic simulations and on real robots.