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Kiwi scientists uncover an astonishing link between bee and human brains

Paul Szyszka catches honey bees from the bee hive at the roof of the Zoology Department, photo credit: University of Otago

Kiwi scientists uncover an astonishing link between bee and human brains

A team of researchers from the University of Otago and the University of Heidelberg and made a discovery which could open new avenues for understanding the human brain - and the answer was found in a bee.

Kiwi scientists uncover an astonishing link between bee and human brains

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found similarities between the brain activity of honey bees and humans.

Analysing honey bees from outdoor hives, the scientists stimulated them with odours, while microscopic electrodes recorded their brain activity.

As it turns out, the wave-like electrical activity generated in bee brains – known as alpha ocillations – have very similar properties to that of the human brain.

Paul Szyszka, author of the study, says this discovery could prove useful in understanding key brain functions in humans. “As alpha oscillations are associated with brain functions such as; attention, memory, and consciousness, bee brains may provide new avenues to understanding how our own brains work.”

He goes on to explain the benefits in studying honey bees. “Experiments on humans are expensive, logistically difficult, and time consuming. Moreover, recordings from individual identified neurons are not possible in human brains. By studying the brains of bees we can overcome these limitations and apply that knowledge to research, and eventually perhaps even to treatment, of human brains.”

The scientists hope to extend this research by further examining the relationship between brain waves and learning and memory.

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