Researchers from Queen Mary University of London developed an artificial network of four neurons to estimate numerosity
A team of researchers from Queen Mary University of London found that bees are capable of solving seemingly clever counting tasks with a few number of nerve cells in their brains. The team simulated a simple neural circuit with four nerve cells to understand how bees count. The circuit was able to count small quantities of items when inspecting each item closely. Bees use a similar approach to count and it differs from humans that glance at all the items and count them together. According to the researchers, such approach makes the complex task of counting much easier and allows bees to display impressive cognitive abilities with minimal brainpower. The research was published in the journal iScience on December 14, 2018.
Previous studies have revealed that bees are able to count up to four or five items and can even choose the smaller or the larger number from a group. The insects can even choose ‘zero’ against other numbers when trained to choose ‘less’. This ability of bees can be attributed to the use of specific flight movements to closely inspect items. These movements later shape bees’ visual input and simplify the task to the point where the insects require minimal brainpower. This in turn suggests that the intelligence of bees and potentially other animals can be attributed to very small nerve cells numbers, given that these are wired together in the right way.
The findings can facilitate development of advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) as efficient autonomous robots need to rely on robust and computationally inexpensive algorithms. According to lead author Dr. Vera Vasas, from Queen Mary University of London, the new model demonstrates that counting can be easily performed with the help of the smallest of nerve cell circuits that are connected in the right manner. Dr. Vasa also stated that the use of specific flight movements to scan targets instead of numerical concepts explains the ability of bees to count. Such scanning simplifies the visual input, thereby consuming less brainpower while performing a task such as counting.
Anika Nylander graduated from Florida A&M University in 2016. Anika is a Florida transplant, having grown up in Alaska. After graduating school, it didn’t take didn’t her long to decide she wanted to stay in the lower 48. Anika has written for several major publications including Buzz Feed and the Huffington Post. Anika is our community reporter and also covers world events.