CIE Spotlight: Improved color constancy in honey bees enabled by parallel visual projections from dorsal ocelli

Pic by Wikimedia Commons: Rushenb

Authors: Jair E. Garcia, Yu-Shan Hung, Andrew D. Greentree, Marcello G. P. Rosa, John A. Endler, and Adrian G. Dyer

Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (received for review March 1, 2017)

Brief summary of the paper: How can a pollinator, like the honey bee, perceive the same colors on visited flowers, despite continuous and rapid changes in ambient illumination and background color?

A hundred years ago, von Kries proposed an elegant solution to this problem, color constancy, which is currently incorporated in many imaging and technological applications. However, empirical evidence on how this method can operate on animal brains remains tenuous.

Our mathematical modeling proposes that the observed spectral tuning of simple ocellar photoreceptors in the honey bee allows for the necessary input for an optimal color constancy solution to most natural light environments. The model is fully supported by our detailed description of a neural pathway allowing for the integration of signals originating from the ocellar photoreceptors to the information processing regions in the bee brain.

These findings reveal a neural implementation to the classic color constancy problem that can be easily translated into artificial color imaging systems.