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Modeling the insect mushroom bodies: Application to a delayed match-to-sample task

Neural Networks
DOI: 10.1016/j.neunet.2012.11.013
  • Neuroscience
  • Insect Brain
  • Insect Mushroom Bodies
  • Spiking Neurons
  • Learning
  • Neural Model
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Design
  • Medicine


Abstract Despite their small brains, insects show advanced capabilities in learning and task solving. Flies, honeybees and ants are becoming a reference point in neuroscience and a main source of inspiration for autonomous robot design issues and control algorithms. In particular, honeybees demonstrate to be able to autonomously abstract complex associations and apply them in tasks involving different sensory modalities within the insect brain. Mushroom Bodies (MBs) are worthy of primary attention for understanding memory and learning functions in insects. In fact, even if their main role regards olfactory conditioning, they are involved in many behavioral achievements and learning capabilities, as has been shown in honeybees and flies. Owing to the many neurogenetic tools, the fruit fly Drosophila became a source of information for the neuroarchitecture and biochemistry of the MBs, although the MBs of flies are by far simpler in organization than their honeybee orthologs. Electrophysiological studies, in turn, became available on the MBs of locusts and honeybees. In this paper a novel bio-inspired neural architecture is presented, which represents a generalized insect MB with the basic features taken from fruit fly neuroanatomy. By mimicking a number of different MB functions and architecture, we can replace and improve formerly used artificial neural networks. The model is a multi-layer spiking neural network where key elements of the insect brain, the antennal lobes, the lateral horn region, the MBs, and their mutual interactions are modeled. In particular, the model is based on the role of parts of the MBs named MB-lobes, where interesting processing mechanisms arise on the basis of spatio-temporal pattern formation. The introduced network is able to model learning mechanisms like olfactory conditioning seen in honeybees and flies and was found able also to perform more complex and abstract associations, like the delayed matching-to-sample tasks known only from honeybees. A biological basis of the proposed model is presented together with a detailed description of the architecture. Simulation results and remarks on the biological counterpart are also reported to demonstrate the possible applications of the designed computational model. Such neural architecture, able to autonomously learn complex associations is envisaged to be a suitable basis for an immediate implementation within an robot control architecture.

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