Invertebrate learning and cognition: Relating phenomena to neural substrate

Clint J. Perry, Andrew B. Barron, Ken Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    93 Citations (Scopus)


    Diverse invertebrate species have been used for studies of learning and comparative cognition. Although we have gained invaluable information from this, in this study we argue that our approach to comparative learning research is rather deficient. Generally invertebrate learning research has focused mainly on arthropods, and most of that within the Hymenoptera and Diptera. Any true comparative analysis of the distribution of comparative cognitive abilities across phyla is hampered by this bias, and more fundamentally by a reporting bias toward positive results. To understand the limits of learning and cognition for a species, knowing what animals cannot do is at least as important as reporting what they can. Finally, much more effort needs to be focused on the neurobiological analysis of different types of learning to truly understand the differences and similarities of learning types. In this review, we first give a brief overview of the various forms of learning in invertebrates. We also suggest areas where further study is needed for a more comparative understanding of learning. Finally, using what is known of learning in honeybees and the well-studied honeybee brain, we present a model of how various complex forms of learning may be accounted for with the same neural circuitry required for so-called simple learning types. At the neurobiological level, different learning phenomena are unlikely to be independent, and without considering this it is very difficult to correctly interpret the phylogenetic distribution of learning and cognitive abilities.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)561-582
    Number of pages22
    JournalWiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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