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6th Meeting of the 203rd Session (2023-2024)

Inside the brain of a bee

Professor Barbara Webb

Professor Barbara Webb

Professor Barbara Webb FRSE
School of Informatics
University of Edinburgh

On Monday 25th March 2024, at 7pm

Bees and other insects are able to perform impressive feats of navigation. They can track their location relative to their nest during long foraging excursions and take the bee-line home. They also remember the location of food and can communicate this to their nest-mates by dancing on the honeycomb. Although these behaviours have been studied for many years, we have only recently discovered the brain circuits involved. It appears the insect brain has evolved to perform the trigonometric functions needed for navigation. This lecture will explain what we now know about how it works.

Barbara Webb obtained her B.Sc. (in Psychology) from the University of Sydney in 1988 and her Ph.D. (in Artificial Intelligence) from the University of Edinburgh in 1993. Following lecturer positions in Nottingham and Stirling, she joined the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh in May 2003. Her main research interest is in biological perceptual systems for the control of behaviour, which she studies by building computational and physical (robot) models of the hypothesised mechanisms. In particular, she focuses on insect behaviours, as their smaller nervous systems may be easier to understand. She was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2022.