This project, produced by the Bee Sensory and Behavioural Ecology Lab, Queen Mary University of London, provides a theoretical model of the bee lobula orientation-sensitive neurons [1], derived from the electrophysiological recording of the Yang & Maddess (1997) study on the honeybee (Apis mellifera) [2].

The ability to generalize over naturally occurring variation in cues indicating food or predation risk is highly useful for efficient decision-making in many animals. Honeybees have remarkable visual cognitive abilities, allowing them to classify visual patterns by common features despite having a relatively miniature brain. In their publication Roper, Fernando and Chittka (2017) [1] ask the question whether generalization requires complex visual recognition or whether it can also be achieved with relatively simple neuronal mechanisms.

They present two very simple neural network models based directly on the neural circuitry of honeybees. These models, using just four large-field lobula orientation-sensitive neurons from each eye, which sparsely connect to a single layer of interneurons within the bee brain learning centres, are able to discriminate complex achromatic patterns often used in bee behavioural experiments, without the need for an internal image representation.

The downloadable zip file below contains the Matlab model code and pattern images allowing replication of the twenty-six discrimination & generalization visual stimuli experiments simulated [1], which were taken from four published honeybee behaviour papers [3-6].

Honeybee lobula orientation-sensitive neuron model (


[1] Roper M, Fernando C, Chittka L. Insect bio-inspired neural network provides new evidence on how simple feature detectors can enable complex visual generalization and stimulus location invariance in the miniature brain of honeybees. PLoS Comput. Biol. (2017) doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005333

[2] Maddess T, Yang E. Orientation-sensitive Neurons in the Brain of the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera). J Insect Physiol. 1997;43(4):329-36

[3] Zhang S, Horridge G. Pattern Recognition in Bees: Size of Regions in Spatial Layout. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 1992;337(1279):65-71.

[4] Stach S, Benard J, Giurfa M. Local-feature assembling in visual pattern recognition and generalization in honeybees. Nature. 2004;429(6993):758-61.

[5] Stach S, Giurfa M. How honeybees generalize visual patterns to their mirror image and left–right transformation. Animal Behaviour. 2001;62(5):981-91.

[6] Srinivasan M, Zhang S, Witney K. Visual Discrimination of Pattern Orientation by Honeybees: Performance and Implications for `Cortical' Processing. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences. 1994;343(1304):199-210.


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