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Concepts in insects

It is well known that insects are capable of complex learning tasks. One example being those behavioural experiments where the performance of insects (most often bees) can suggest that they have learnt an abstract rule to drive performance. It is this type of experiment which is reviewed here. The authors are putting the case for bees being able to learnt ‘concepts’, claiming that: “concepts such as ‘same’, ‘different’,‘above/below of’ or ‘left/right are well mastered by bees.”  There is no doubt that these experiments demonstrate some wonderful behaviour. However, we are still quite far from understanding if this kind of behaviour in bees is based on homologous neural computations to the concept learning of vertebrates. And, it is still unclear how the “concept” learning of bees is built-on or driven-by ecological and foraging constraints. Of course, not knowing these things is what makes this topic so intriguing.

 
Avargue`s-Weber A, Giurfa M. 2013 Conceptual learning by miniature brains. Proc R Soc B 280: 20131907. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2013.1907
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