Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Bee discovery may improve patient post-operative care

Bee discovery may improve patient post-operative care

A University of Auckland study that proves bees navigate by building mental maps of familiar terrain has the potential to improve post-operative care of patients.

Auckland scientists, Dr James Cheeseman, Dr Guy Warman and Dr Craig Millar have solved a long-standing biological question about how honey bees navigate that has international implications.

It is already known that mammals navigate using cognitive maps – continuous mental maps of familiar terrain created through experience and continually referenced and updated.

Until now, it was unclear whether insects also navigated in the same way or by different means. For decades it was assumed bees navigated their way back to the hive by sun-compass.

The Auckland study team, led by Dr Cheeseman, from the University’s Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences and in collaboration with neurobiologist Dr Randolf Menzel from the Free University of Berlin, tested the theory that displaced bees rely only on the remembered direction home from familiar landmarks, referenced to the sun’s position.

“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,” says Dr Cheeseman.

They caught the honey bees and anesthetised them for six hours, to shift their circadian clocks. Miniature transponders were fixed to each bee’s thorax to enable the bees to be radar tracked from release.

“Initially clock-shifted bees tried to use their sun compass, but realised their mistake and were able to navigate back to the hive as quickly as the control group bees,” says School of Biological Sciences, senior lecturer Craig Millar.

It had been assumed that the bee brain was too small to have a cognitive map, because it did not have enough neurons to perform computational tasks.

“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,” says Dr Cheeseman.

“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,” he says. “They worked out where they were and within a few hundred metres had corrected their direction and got back to the hive, just as fast as the control group.”

One aspect of the study was to look at how anaesthetic may shift or disrupt the circadian clock and how that may cause post-operative sleep disruption in patients.

“This study funded by the Royal Society’s Marsden Fund is part of a broader programme of work, to learn how anesthetics clock-shifts the human biological clock and induces jet-lag like symptoms,” says Dr Cheeseman. “Our research also uses mammal models and clinical trials to see to what extent anesthetics disrupts the circadian clock.”

“We are looking at the effect of anesthesia on the circadian clock and how it impacts on navigation by honey bees, and relating that to anesthesia in clinical situations for humans.”
These findings have implications for surgery and the impact anesthesia has on causing post-operative sleep problems in people.

“If we can stop that happening, we might decrease hospital and recovery time for patients suffering from post-operative fatigue and circadian disruption,” he says.

The study findings were published this week in the journal, Proceedings of the National Sciences of America (PNAS) and were reported internationally online this week.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


DIY: Kiwi Ingenuity And Masking Tape Saves Chick

Kiwi ingenuity and masking tape has saved a Kiwi chick after its egg was badly damaged endangering the chick's life. The egg was delivered to Kiwi Encounter at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua 14 days ago by a DOC worker with a large hole in its shell and against all odds has just successfully hatched. More>>


Trade: Key To Lead Mission To India; ASEAN FTA Review Announced

Prime Minister John Key will lead a trade delegation to India next week, saying the pursuit of a free trade agreement with the protectionist giant is "the primary reason we're going" but playing down the likelihood of early progress. More>>



MYOB: Digital Signatures Go Live

From today, Inland Revenue will begin accepting “digital signatures”, saving businesses and their accountants a huge amount of administration time and further reducing the need for pen and paper in the workplace. More>>

Oil Searches: Norway's Statoil Quits Reinga Basin

Statoil, the Norwegian state-owned oil company, has given up oil and gas exploration in Northland's Reinga Basin, saying the probably of a find was 'too low'. More>>


Modern Living: Auckland Development Blowouts Reminiscent Of Run Up To GFC

The collapse of property developments in Auckland is "almost groundhog day" to the run-up of the global financial crisis in 2007/2008 as banks refuse to fund projects due to blowouts in construction and labour costs, says John Kensington, the author of KPMG's Financial Institutions Performance Survey. More>>


Health: New Zealand's First ‘No Sugary Drinks’ Logo Unveiled

New Zealand’s first “no sugary drinks logo” has been unveiled at an event in Wellington... It will empower communities around New Zealand to lift their health and wellbeing and send a clear message about the damage caused by too much sugar in our diets. More>>


Get More From Scoop

Search Scoop  
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news