Segregation of visual input to the mushroom bodies in the honeybee (Apis mellifera)

Birgit Ehmer, Wulfila Gronenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Insect mushroom bodies are brain regions that receive multisensory input and are thought to play an important role in learning and memory. In most neopteran insects, the mushroom bodies receive direct olfactory input. In addition, the calyces of Hymenoptera receive substantial direct input from the optic lobes. We describe visual inputs to the calyces of the mushroom bodies of the honeybee Apis mellifera, the neurons'dendritic fields in the optic lobes, the medulla and lobula, and the organization of their terminals in the calyces. Medulla neurons terminate in the collar region of the calyx, where they segregate into five layers that receive alternating input from the dorsal or ventral medulla, respectively. A sixth, innermost layer of the collar receives input from lobula neurons. In the basal ring region of the calyx, medulla neuron terminals are restricted to a small, distal part. Lobula neurons are more prominent in the basal ring, where they terminate in its outer half. Although the collar and basal ring layers generally receive segregated input from both optic neuropils, some overlap occurs at the borders of the layers. At least three different types of mushroom body input neurons originate from the medulla: (a) neurons with narrow dendritic fields mainly restricted to the vicinity of the medulla's serpentine layer and found throughout the medulla; (b) neurons restricted to the ventral half of the medulla and featuring long columnar dendritic branches in the outer medulla; and (c) a group of neurons whose dendrites are restricted to the most ventral part of the medulla and whose axons form the anterior inferior optic tract. Most medulla neurons (groups a and b) send their axons via the anterior superior optic tract to the mushroom bodies. Neurons connecting the lobula with the mushroom bodies have their dendrites in a defined dorsal part of the lobula. Their axons form a third tract to the mushroom bodies, here referred to as the lobula tract. Our findings match the anatomy of intrinsic mushroom body neurons (Strausfeld, 2002) and together indicate that the mushroom bodies may be composed of many more functional subsystems than previously suggested.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-373
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 30 2002


  • Higher brain centers
  • Optic lobes
  • Social insects

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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