Washington: Scientists have shown that a honeybee`s brain is sophisticated enough to learn rules and process visual problems, a finding which they claim suggests a robot could one day do the same.
An international team claims that honeybees also use multiple rules to solve complex visual problems, which has important implications for our understanding of how cognitive capacities for viewing complex images evolved in brains.
Lead author Dr Adrian Dyer at RMIT University in Australia said that rule learning was a fundamental cognitive task that allowed humans to operate in complex environments.
"For example, if a driver wants to turn right at an intersection then they need to simultaneously observe the traffic light colour, the flow of oncoming cars and pedestrians to make a decision.
"With experience, our brains can conduct these complex decision-making processes, but this is a type of cognitive task beyond current machine vision.
“Our research collaboration between labs in Australia and France wanted to understand if such simultaneous decision making required a large primate brain, or whether a honeybee might also demonstrate rule learning,” he said in a release.
For their study, the researchers trained individual honeybees to fly into a Y-shaped maze which presented different elements in specific relationships like above/below, or left/right.
With extended training the bees were able to learn that the elements had to have two sets of rules including being in a specific relationship like above/below, while also possessing elements differing from each other.
Dr Dyer said the findings showed that possessing a large complex brain was not necessary to master multiple simultaneous conceptual rule learning. "This offers the possibility of deciphering the neural basis of high-level cognitive tasks due to the simplicity and accessibility of the bee brain," he added.
The research has been published in the `Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences` journal.