WELLINGTON, June 4 (Xinhua) -- A New Zealand study showing bees have mental maps of familiar terrain could help surgery patients recover quicker from the effects of anesthetic, University of Auckland scientists said Wednesday.
Although mammals were known to navigate using cognitive maps, continuous mental maps of familiar terrain created through experience and continually referenced and updated, the bee brain had been assumed to be too small, so the insects navigated by a " sun compass."
The scientists caught the honey bees and anaesthetized them for six hours, to shift their circadian clocks, and then tested how long and by what route they could relocate the hive.
"We reasoned that if bees relied on the sun to navigate, then a circadian shift should disrupt the bees' ability to locate their hive after release," study leader Dr. James Cheeseman said in a statement.
"By giving the bees the equivalent of jet-lag for a couple of hours that tricked them into thinking it was a different time of day, we were able to show that, despite making a predictable mistake in direction on leaving the release site, they quickly corrected the angle," he said.
"The bees don't get lost, so they must have a backup system for navigation as well as using landmarks to get back to the hive, they are using a cognitive map to integrate their position."
One aspect of the study was to look at how anaesthetic could shift or disrupt the circadian clock and how that could cause post- operative sleep disruption in patients.
"If we can stop that happening, we might decrease hospital and recovery time for patients suffering from post-operative fatigue and circadian disruption," he said.