Evolution, discovery, and interpretations of arthropod mushroom bodies

Nicholas J. Strausfeld, Lars Hansen, Yongsheng Li, Robert S. Gomez, Kei Ito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

451 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-37
Number of pages27
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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