Scientists have known for some time that some social insects undergo dramatic behavioral changes as they mature, and now a research team has found that the brains of a wasp species correspondingly enlarge as the creatures engage in more complex tasks.
"The amount of change is striking," said Sean ODonnell, a University of Washington associate professor of psychology and lead author of a new study published in the February issue of Neuroscience Letters. "It is easily apparent with magnification."
ODonnell said the changes take place in sections of the brain called the mushroom bodies. There is one mushroom body on top of each hemisphere of the wasp brain and the structures have a superficial resemblance to the cerebrum in humans and other vertebrates, he said. The enlargement was centered in a part of the mushroom body called the calyx where neural connections are made.
Joel Schwarz | EurekAlert!
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