Data for research article 'Mushroom bodies are required for learnt visual navigation but not for innate visual behaviour in ants'

Data for paper published in Current Biology (July 2020).

Data contains paths from individually recorded ants during the experiments (saved as Matlab files). You will need access to the MATLAB environment to view these files.

For details please see the README.doc file and view the experiment methods in the published paper.


Visual navigation in ants has long been a focus of experimental study, but only recently have explicit hypotheses about the underlying neural circuitry been proposed. Indirect evidence suggests the mushroom bodies (MB) may be the substrate for visual memory in navigation tasks, whilst computational modelling shows that MB neural architecture could support this function. There is, however, no direct evidence that ants require MBs for visual navigation. Here we show that lesions of MB calyces impair ants’ visual navigation to a remembered food location yet leaves their innate responses to visual cues unaffected. Wood ants are innately attracted to large visual cues but we trained them to locate a food source at a specific angle away from such a cue. Subsequent lesioning of the MB calyces using procaine hydrochloride injection, caused ants to revert towards their innate cue attraction. Handling and saline injection control ants still approached the feeder. Path straightness of lesioned and control ants did not differ from each other but was lower than during training. Reversion towards the cue direction occurred irrespective of whether the visual cue was ipsi- or contralateral to the lesion site, showing this is not due simply to an induced motor bias. Monocular occlusion did not diminish ants’ ability to locate the feeder, suggesting that MB lesions are not merely interrupting visual input to the calyx. The demonstrated dissociation between innate and learnt visual responses provides direct evidence for a specific role of the MB in navigational memory.