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J Comp Neurol. 2012 Feb 1;520(2):212-29. doi: 10.1002/cne.22776.

Segregation of visual inputs from different regions of the compound eye in two parallel pathways through the anterior optic tubercle of the bumblebee (Bombus ignitus).

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Graduate University for Advanced Studies (Sokendai), Department of Evolutionary Studies of Biosystems, Shonan Village, Hayama, Kanagawa, Japan.


Visually guided behaviors require the brain to extract features of the visual world and to integrate them in a context-specific manner. Hymenopteran insects have been prime models for ethological research into visual behaviors for decades but knowledge about the underlying central processing is very limited. This is particularly the case for sky-compass navigation. To learn more about central processing of visual information in general and specifically to reveal a possible polarization vision pathway in the bee brain, we used tracer injections to investigate the pathways through the anterior optic tubercle, a prominent output target of the insect optic lobe, in the bumblebee Bombus ignitus. The anterior optic tubercle of the bumblebee is a small neuropil of 200 μm width and is located dorsolateral to the antennal lobe at the anterior surface of the brain. It is divided into a larger upper and a smaller lower subunit, both of which receive input from the optic lobe and connect to the lateral accessory lobe, and the contralateral tubercle, via two parallel pathways. The lower subunit receives input from the dorsal rim area (DRA) of the compound eye. The bumblebee DRA shares structural similarities with polarization-sensitive DRAs of other insects and looks similar to that of honeybees. We identified several neurons within this pathway that could be homologous to identified polarization-sensitive neurons in the locust brain. We therefore conclude that the pathway through the lower subunit of the anterior optic tubercle could carry polarization information from the periphery to the central brain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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