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Learn Mem. 1998 May-Jun;5(1-2):11-37.

Evolution, discovery, and interpretations of arthropod mushroom bodies.

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  • 1Arizona Research Laboratories Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona, Tucson 85721, USA.


Mushroom bodies are prominent neuropils found in annelids and in all arthropod groups except crustaceans. First explicitly identified in 1850, the mushroom bodies differ in size and complexity between taxa, as well as between different castes of a single species of social insect. These differences led some early biologists to suggest that the mushroom bodies endow an arthropod with intelligence or the ability to execute voluntary actions, as opposed to innate behaviors. Recent physiological studies and mutant analyses have led to divergent interpretations. One interpretation is that the mushroom bodies conditionally relay to higher protocerebral centers information about sensory stimuli and the context in which they occur. Another interpretation is that they play a central role in learning and memory. Anatomical studies suggest that arthropod mushroom bodies are predominately associated with olfactory pathways except in phylogenetically basal insects. The prominent olfactory input to the mushroom body calyces in more recent insect orders is an acquired character. An overview of the history of research on the mushroom bodies, as well as comparative and evolutionary considerations, provides a conceptual framework for discussing the roles of these neuropils.

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