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Path integration memory

The ability to record the movements of the body to estimate one’s position in space in relation to a point of origin is called path integration. In principle, a directional signal has to be integrated with a distance signal to be able to transform even the most convoluted movement history into a straight-line representation of the distance and direction of the point of origin. This is called a vector memory and it is currently unknown how it is computed or stored in the brain of any animal.

Using path integration in bees as our model, we aim at locating and characterizing the cellular substrates of the bee’s vector memory. Building on an anatomically constrained computational model of the bee path integration circuit that we have developed in collaboration with Barbara Webb (University of Edinburgh, UK) (Stone et al. 2017), we have identified candidate brain regions and neurons that should house this memory and postulate that information is stored predominantly as ongoing electrical activity. 

In this project, we investigate the principal nature of the memory and its limits with behavioral experiments. These trained bees are used for physiological analysis as well: We use transcriptional and metabolic footprints of neural activity to locate neurons in the bee brain that show activity correlated with the presence of a path integration memory. Finally, we use electrophysiology in restrained bees as well as in walking bees to characterize the physiological features of the proposed memory neurons and, eventually, to directly observe the accumulation of path integration memory in the brain. We target the noduli of the central complex and directly use the models that are generated based on data from our comparative connectomics project.


Methods: Extracellular electrophysiology (tetrode recordings) in walking bees, intracellular electrophysiology, histology, in situ hybridization, labeled glucose activity marking, behavioral training

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People involved

Adriana Schatton

Lina O`Reilly


Marie Dacke


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