Home > Papers from 2013 > How deadly is learning?

How deadly is learning?

We are used to thinking about the optimality of learning in terms of learning speed. Basically, one has to strike a balance between quick learning and avoidance of learning too much irrelevant information. Another factor that animals must deal with is the actual physiological cost of learning. Here this is shown starkly by Jaumann et al. Bees were subjected to a PER conditioning regime and afterwards their survival time was measured. Those bees that had successfully learned the CS-US association in the PER subsequently had reduced lifespan and could also be be shown to have a reduced energy reserve. So the risk of learning isn’t just that you might learn the wrong thing but also that you might waste a significant amount of energy doing so.

Sarah Jaumann, Robin Scudelari and Dhruba Naug (2013) Energetic cost of learning and memory can cause cognitive impairment in honeybees. Biol. Lett. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0149
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