Home > Papers from 2011 > A mapless model of insect navigation

A mapless model of insect navigation

A recurring thorny question in this field is that of the cognitive map and whether such a construct is required to explain the spatial behaviours we observe in insects. Cruse and Wehner present an abstract model of basic insect spatial behaviours (PI, landmark use and search) which reinforces ones intuition and shows that when modulated by motivational states this model is enough to reproduce behaviours which are occasionally attributed to cognitive maps.

Abstract:  “When desert ants search for food, they often have to travel over long distances, more then ten thousand times their body lengths and then turn back to find the nest entrance. It is known from many experiments that these animals employ a skylight compass including the sun, a pedometer, and a mechanism called path integration. This means that during walking they continuously update the vector pointing from their actual position back to the nest site. In addition they use landmarks. However, based on observations of the behaviour of ants and honey bees several authors have argued that these animals finally employ a neural system that is able to represent frequently visited locations in the form of a map (a ‘cognitive map’). Having a map-like system available would allow the animal to find a shortcut between two separately learned locations without having learned this direct path between both locations beforehand. As such shortcuts have been observed, cognitive maps have been assumed to exist. Here we show in a simulation study based on artificial neural networks that shortcuts as observed in the experiments are also possible with a memory system using a completely decentralized architecture not including an explicit cognitive map.”

Cruse, H. & Wehner, R .. 2011 No Need for a Cognitive Map: Decentralized Memory for Insect Navigation. PLoS Comput ational Biology 7, e1002009. Cruse6 2011

Categories: Papers from 2011
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