Something to be looked at again
In the heart-warming Japanese movie “Hachiko”, a dog by that very name day after day heads to the station at precisely the right time the train with his master Professor Ueno in it is expected to pull in. Even after its master’s death, Hachiko continues for many years to be at the station at the correct time, waiting for its master. When I told this to my wife, she said that our cat Pompom would also turn up from somewhere in the garden every afternoon at about the same time to be fed. Well, I suppose the cat’s food ration lasts exactly 24 hours and then the cat’s stomach tells it that it’s feeding time again. So, I replied that my fish in the aquarium also know the time when food is plopped into the tank every morning and that their waiting for it to happen, indicates they are as smart as our cat.
But how about bees? Bees learn to efficiently use a time-schedule to visit flowers at exactly the time of day when they are open and contain a maximum amount of nectar. In some flowers that happens to be the morning; in others it’s during the day or even late afternoon. If real flowers are replaced by artificial ones and the nectar becomes sugar solution, bees still stick to their time schedule even if exposed to a regimen of 24 hour constant light, temperature and humidity. That is well known.
Interestingly, more recent studies have shown that cold narcosis prior to some learning in the bee impairs memory acquisition (and of course the ability to move). However, once something is learned, retrieval of that information is apparently not significantly affected by the narcotic effect of the cold exposure. This suggests that the mechanisms involved in acquisition and retrieval are not identical and that certain drugs may be selected that affect either one or the other.
Professor Martin Lindauer of Frankfurt University about 50 years ago trained one group of bees for five days to take food only in the morning hours and a second group to come to the feeding platform only in the afternoon. Then parts of the brains, termed “mushroom bodies”, of the first group were implanted into the head capsule of the second group of bees. When this latter group (with the brains implanted from the first, i.e. the group conditioned to morning feeding) was no longer rewarded with food in the afternoon, more than 60% of the operated bees then apparently appeared at the feeding place at the time the first group of bees had been trained to arrive. Control bees without brain implantations or bees with brain implants from untrained donors, did not show this behaviour. That such time transplanted memories appear to be even effective across longitudinal time zones was reported by U. Martin in 1987.
The inescapable conclusion: somehow time neurons, perhaps oscillating like a metronome and functioning like a clock in the receiver bee must have become re-set through the implant, but whether information stored as chemicals or donor neurons have some input in the receiver ought to be re-investigated – as should all the transplant experiments, I think. Although the experiments do not explain how the time-memory actually works and what the hypothetical chemical might consist of, they do offer exciting food for thought – well, of course, only at the right time of day that is.
© Dr V.B. Meyer-Rochow and http://www.bioforthebiobuff.wordpress.com, 2017.
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