The mushroom bodies are regions in the insect brain involved in processing complex multimodal information. They are composed of many parallel sets of intrinsic neurons that receive input from and transfer output to extrinsic neurons that connect the mushroom bodies with the surrounding neuropils. Mushroom bodies are particularly large in social Hymenoptera and are thought to be involved in the control of conspicuous orientation, learning, and memory capabilities of these insects. The present account compares the organization of sensory input to the mushroom body's calyx in different Hymenoptera. Tracer and conventional neuronal staining procedures reveal the following anatomic characteristics: The calyx comprises three subdivisions, the lip, collar, and basal ring. The lip receives antennal lobe afferents, and these olfactory input neurons can terminate in two or more segregated zones within the lip. The collar receives visual afferents that are bilateral with equal representation of both eyes in each calyx. Visual inputs provide two to three layers of processes in the collar subdivision. The basal ring is subdivided into two modality-specific zones, one receiving visual, the other antennal lobe input. Some overlap of modality exists between calycal subdivisions and within the basal ring, and the degree of segregation of sensory input within the calyx is species-specific. The data suggest that the many parallel channels of intrinsic neurons may each process different aspects of sensory input information.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.