US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Researchers conducted a classic experiment on wood ants that use visual navigation to orient themselves in space. They found that the right insect antenna is responsible for short-term memory, and the left – for long-term memory.
On Wednesday, May 6, scientists published a study in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences, which states that ants store long-term and short-term memories in different parts of the brain. This indicates that memory lateralization could have evolved.
Red forest ant
Red forest ants are representatives of the ant family, whose body length is approximately six millimeters. They prefer to build anthills at the base of conifers. By the way, huge anthills can contain more than three hundred thousand ants.
The ant nest consists of numerous underground labyrinths, rooms and tunnels. Red forest ants feed on seeds and invertebrate animals. They live throughout European territory.
We like to think that the human brain is a special and highly organized organ, but even the smallest brain sometimes reveals a surprising resemblance to our own.
A new study shows that red ants store short-term and long-term memories in different parts of their brain. Moreover, when they store visual memories in their brain, they break the rules of symmetry.
It seems that one side of the brain holds short-term memories, and the other – long-term memories. This phenomenon is known as nervous lateralization, and it seems that it is closely associated with the formation of memories in animals.
Visual memory is a special character of memory associated with the organs of vision, mental memory, the preservation and reproduction of visual images.
For example, the right hemisphere of the human brain is mainly responsible for spatial memory and musical perception, and the left hemisphere is directly related to speech. Both hemispheres of the brain are connected to each other. Perhaps the same applies to forest ants.
“As far as we know, this is the first demonstration of the lateralized formation of visual memory in an insect. This discovery will be of great importance for understanding the formation of visual memories in insects and the evolution of lateralization, ”the authors of the study write.
In experiments with red forest ants, the lateralization of visual memory was studied. To start, the researchers chose a blue item. They then allowed the ants to touch the drop of water with the sucrose dissolved in it by the antennas before drinking it. After they trained the ants to respond to the visual signal, they then checked the connection after 10 minutes, hour and day.
The study was similar to the famous Pavlov Dog experiment. Recall that a dog drooled whenever a scientist rang a bell, but the animal did not receive food. If ants opened their jaws at the sight of a blue object, this was considered a sign of thirst.
As a result, when the ants first touched the sweet drop with the right antenna, they did not remember the connection between the blue object and food for long: they could reproduce it in ten minutes, which corresponds to a short-term memory.
The insects, which were first allowed to touch the food with their left antenna, during the experiment did not react by opening their jaws to a blue object after 10 minutes or even after an hour, but they showed the desired reaction after 24 hours.
“We show that a brief contact of the left or right antenna with a sweet reward is enough to form a lateralized memory, even if the ants see a visual signal throughout the training and testing,” the researchers said.
For a long time, scientists believed that man is the only creature on the planet with two different hemispheres of the brain, each of which is responsible for different functions and behavior.
Now, of course, we know a lot more. Cerebral laterality is widespread among vertebrates, and probably appeared in the early stages of evolution. Incidentally, it can also be in invertebrates.
Scientists do not know much about different types of insects, so it’s hard to say whether ants and bees have received brain laterality due to evolution, and whether it is present in other species of insects.
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