Honeybee Speed Estimation

The goal of this research is to mathematically describe how the brain processes and uses sensory information to generate appropriate behavioral responses. These mathematical models can then be used as a basis to understand higher-level behaviors or to design more intelligent robotic systems. The human brain contains around 10 billion neurons (the functional cells of the brain), making it a dauntingly large and complex structure to study. Because of this complexity, we study the honeybee, an organism with a much smaller brain (with around 1 million neurons) that still exhibits a variety of complex social, visual, and navigational behaviors. Of particular interest to us is the "waggle dance", in which a foraging honeybee communicates the location of a distant food source to other honeybees in the hive. Specifically, our research looks at how honeybees estimate the distance they have traveled based solely on a visual estimate of their flight speed. To accomplish this goal we combine information from multiple levels of analysis, from biophysics to neuroanatomy, to create a mathematical model of early visual processing. We then refine the model by studying the responses of tethered honeybees in a virtual flight arena. The model can then be programmed into a robotic system.

Last Updated: Saturday, 27 October 2012 20:07

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