‘Frame of Mind’ and division of labor in social insects
Supervisor Christoph Kleineidam, University of Konstanz
Social insect colonies are highly organized communities, and even though their members appear strikingly similar, they are all but the same. Individuals differ in the way they respond to external stimuli and they differ in the tasks they perform. These inter-individual differences in behavior relates to sensory information processing and evaluation, and this in turn is often highly biased by the internal, physiological state of the individual. Activity such as foraging or defense but also hunger and other stress factors determine the physiological state and impact how the brain processes information, i.e. setting the “frame of mind”.
We study how the social environment impacts the physiological state of individuals, setting the frame of mind and ultimately leading to task allocation and division of labor within an social insect colony. In our experiments, we describe neuromodulatory systems (serotonin, dopamine etc.) which then allows us to relate the individual behavior to the chemical signature of a physiological state. Our aim is to understand the neural principles that enable context-dependent decision making and behavior in a social environment; and to elucidate how the diversity of individuals within a colony is coordinated for division of labor to emerge.
For more information on the research group.
Starting date: Summer 2022
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