Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Changes In Brain Architecture May Be Driven By Different Cognitive Challenges

Date:
June 25, 2009
Source:
University of Washington
Summary:
Scientists trying to understand how the brains of animals evolve have found that evolutionary changes in brain structure reflect the types of social interactions and environmental stimuli different species face.

Scientists trying to understand how the brains of animals evolve have found that evolutionary changes in brain structure reflect the types of social interactions and environmental stimuli different species face.

Related Articles


The study is the first to compare multiple species of related animals, in this case social wasps, to look at how roles of individuals in a society might affect brain architecture. The research looks at brain structure differences between species, asking how the size of different brain regions relates to each species’ social complexity and nest architecture. The results are being published June 24 in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“It looks as if different brain regions respond to specific challenges. It is important to find these relationships because they can tell us which challenges guide brain evolution,” said Sean O’Donnell, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology and co-author of the study.

O’Donnell and lead author Yamile Molina, who just completed work on her doctorate at the UW, looked at the brains of eight New World social wasp species from Costa Rica and Ecuador.

“One idea is that social interactions themselves put on demands for advanced cognitive abilities. We are interested in finding out exactly which social and environmental factors favor an increase in a given brain region,” said Molina.

The UW researchers captured queens and female workers from colonies of the eight wasp species and examined their brains. For the most part, males usually don’t play an important behavioral role in a social wasp colony’s labor and other activities, according to O’Donnell. However, a follow-up study will look at the male wasp brain structure.

In examining the female wasps, the researchers found strong evidence that queens, rather than workers, have distinct brain structure that matches the species’ cognitive challenges.

Social wasps form colonies differently and build two types of nests. In more primitive wasps, a queen mates and flies away separately to establish a small colony. Among the more advanced social wasps, several young queens and a group of workers leave a colony as a swarm to establish a new colony that has a much larger population. Independent founders and a few swarm founders build open-comb nests, while most swarm founders build enclosed nests with interiors that are much darker.

Molina and O’Donnell found that queens from open-comb nests had larger central brain processing regions that are devoted to vision than queens from closed-nest colonies. Queens from enclosed nests, where vision isn’t as important and where they rely on chemical communication through pheromones, had larger antennal lobes to process chemical messages than queens from open nests.

Among independent-founding wasps, where queens regulate the behavior of a colony, queens had larger vision-processing regions (called mushroom body collars) than their workers. But among swarm-founders, which have a decentralized form of colony regulation, workers had larger mushroom body collars and larger optic lobes than queens.

“We can learn things about ourselves from a whole variety of animals. When neurobiologists use animal models they often look to rodents and primates,” said Molina. “I would argue social insects like wasps are like us in some ways and should be an important model as well. In this study we found that it’s not being social, but how you are social that explains brain architecture. The brain can be a mirror reflecting what an animal is using it for.”

Co-author of the paper is Robin Harris, a UW doctoral student in neurobiology. The Society for Comparative and Integrative Biology and the National Science Foundation funded the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Washington. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Washington. "Changes In Brain Architecture May Be Driven By Different Cognitive Challenges." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623165214.htm>.
University of Washington. (2009, June 25). Changes In Brain Architecture May Be Driven By Different Cognitive Challenges. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623165214.htm
University of Washington. "Changes In Brain Architecture May Be Driven By Different Cognitive Challenges." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090623165214.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins