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Sussex boffins create model of bee brain
You've heard of hare-brained ideas but scientists have now come up with a bee-brained one.
Staff at the University of Sussex are looking to create the first accurate computer model of a honey bee brain.
It is hoped the model will help understand artificial intelligence and how animals think.
The team will build models of the systems in the brain that govern honey bee vision and sense of smell.
Using this information, the researchers aim to create an autonomous flying robot, comprising an off-the-shelf flying robot and a bee-like “brain” in the form of a computer program.
Instead of flying around via a remote control held by a human, the robot would be able to sense and act independently like a bee.
If successful, this project will meet one of the major challenges of modern science: building a robot brain that can perform complex tasks as well as the brain of an animal.
Dr Thomas Nowotny is a member of the Centre for Computational Neuroscience and Robotics, and the leader of the Sussex team, whose role is to develop the software that supports simulating a real-sized bee brain fast enough to control the robot in real time.
He said: “We expect in many areas of science this technology will eventually replace the classic supercomputers we use today and pave the way for many future advances in autonomous flying robots.
“We also believe the computer modelling techniques we will be using will be widely useful to other brain modelling and computational neuroscience projects.”
The researchers hope developing a model of a honey bee brain will offer a better way of finding out more about how a brain thinks, leading to advances in understanding animal and human cognition.
The research is also expected to provide a greater understanding of the honey bee itself.
Honey bees are a vital part of the environment through pollination, yet their declining population in recent years has given scientists cause for concern.
The modelling could help scientists to understand why honey bee numbers are dwindling and also contribute to the development of artificial pollinators.
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