A study conducted by a team of scientists from Arizona State University and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences was published in Experimental Gerontology, a scientific journal. The ASU scientists set out to find why bees age when they leave the nest to look for food.
While it seems obvious that a living thing would age, the scientists at ASU noticed “from previous research that when bees stay in the nest and take care of larvae … they remain mentally competent for as long as we observe them,” said Gro Amdam, the Associate Professor of ASU’s School of Life Science, in a press release. He went on to explain that when the bees leave the nest to gather food, they age very quickly. The “foraging bees have worn wings, hairless bodies, and more importantly, lose brain function – basically measured as the ability to learn new things. We wanted to find out if there was plasticity in this aging pattern, so we asked the question, ‘What would happen if we asked the foraging bees to take care of larval babies again?’”
What they found was shocking.
They determined that in as little as 10 days after returning to their nest, bees can reverse the effects of aging on their brains. When the older bees return to their hives to perform social duties, the very molecular structures of their brains change and half of the bees’ ability to learn new things improved.
When they compared the bees’ brains with each other, the scientists found that their was a change in proteins. One protein that they found helps to protect the bees from dementia, and another one keeps the other proteins from being damaged.
Will we be able to accomplish the same things in our own brains? Only time and science will tell.