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Unravelling the neuro-ethological components of emotions in honey bees

Project description

Bees may experience fear in addition to being highly cognitive

Cognition is tightly connected to emotional states. Cognitive abilities are certainly not confined to vertebrates, raising the question of whether emotion may not be either. Significant research has linked specific neural architecture and neurotransmitters to emotions in mammals including humans. Although bees are known for their remarkable cognitive capacity, the question of whether they experience emotions, in particular fear, has not been addressed. With the support of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the FEAR-BEES project will investigate whether bees exhibit behavioural, neurophysiological and cognitive correlates of fear using a modification of a fear conditioning paradigm employed in vertebrates. Measuring or manipulating neuropeptides and hormones in the brain and haemolymph could provide links between specific bee brain regions and fear processing.


"The idea that invertebrates may have basic or primitive forms of emotions is growing. In part, this is based on cumulative evidence of high-level cognitive skills in these miniature brained animals. However, the mere presence of high-order cognitive skills does not imply the existence of emotional states and the characterization of the mechanisms underlying emotional states in invertebrates is still at its infancy. The study of proximate mechanisms of emotions in invertebrates has the potential to bypass the discussion on the appropriateness of semantics labels and advance our understanding of how the neural architecture and neurotransmitters involved in invertebrates emotions compare to those found in mammals, including humans. This project will exploit a multicomponent approach, including behavioural, neurophysiological, and cognitive correlates, to obtain powerful insights on the emotion of fear in invertebrates. Using the honey bee Apis mellifera as a model system, this project will: 1) characterise the behavioural and physiological correlates of ""fear"" using an equivalent paradigm of fear conditioning widely used in vertebrates, 2) investigate the molecular cascade of ""fear"" by quantifying the biogenic amines and neuropeptides in specific brain regions and circulating neuro-hormones in the haemolymph using cutting edge techniques, and 3) test the effect of blocking or activating different aminergic/hormonal systems by local injection of specific drugs/amines/hormones in the brain/haemolymph to identify casual links between specific brain regions and emotional processing. Besides advancing our current understanding of the emotional system of invertebrates, the project outputs will affect how we interact with invertebrates and will open fruitful ethical discussions to change current research policies."



Net EU contribution
€ 211 754,88
Other funding
€ 0,00

Partners (2)