© Phelia Baruh


Giovanni Galizia, Ph.D.

Professor of Zoology and Neurobiology

Universität Konstanz

Born in 1963 in Rome
Studied Biology at the Freie Universität Berlin and the University of Cambridge (UK)


Insect Intentionality and Sentience: Understanding Complex Behaviors in Social Insects

I posit that much of what makes animals "intelligent" is caused by an interplay of many learning circuits on varying levels. A classical reductionist approach to the study of learning aims at controlling as many variables as possible, in order to isolate (ideally) a single learning mechanism and study it in detail. While this approach has proven extremely powerful, we need to add new approaches that allow us to study experimental settings in which many parameters remain open, to allow for multiple memory traces that thus create complex memories and behaviors. This is sometimes done in behavioral analyses (in particular in open field observation studies), but not yet on an analytical level that would allow us to record neural activity in dedicated physiological experiments.
The long-term goal is to understand intentionality and sentience. I define intentionality as a process used by animals for action selection. When an animal is in a situation in which several behaviors can be selected from, and the animal has to choose (in a simple case, for example, fly West or East), action selection is necessary. This can be based on past experience, inherited algorithms, randomness - or any combination. Alternatively, the animal could "visualize" the future outcome of its actions for each alternative. ("Visualize" is a poor word here, because it refers to the visual system only; "experience" is better, but easily misunderstood.) If an animal gauges alternative future outcomes internally, it uses intentionality. Intentionality entails an internal representation of the outside world and the capacity to evaluate a "virtual reality" therein. Intentionality – or the capacity for it - may relate to properties that are more complex: the internal representation of self, self-awareness, sentience (the capacity to feel subjectively), and consciousness. I believe it is important to include these in our thinking, but at the same time to keep them clearly and explicitly distinct.
My hypothesis is that these capacities (including action selection, intentionality, self-awareness, sentience, consciousness) do not come automatically with increased complexity. I will focus on the honeybee as a social, experimentally amenable insect. Experimental designs can then be extended to other species at a later stage.

Recommended Reading

Galizia, C. Giovanni (2014). "Olfactory coding in the insect brain: data and conjectures." Eur J Neurosci 39, 11: 1784-95.
Galizia, C. Giovanni and Pierre-Marie Lledo, eds. (2013). Neurosciences - from molecule to behavior: a university textbook. Heidelberg: Springer.
Galizia, C. Giovanni and Wolfgang Rössler (2010). "Parallel olfactory systems in insects: anatomy and function." Annu Rev Entomol 55: 399-420.

Publikationen aus der Fellowbibliothek

Galizia, Giovanni ( Jerusalem, 2015)
Forgetting : an interdisciplinary conversation Martin Buber Society of Fellows notebook series

Galizia, Giovanni ( Oxford, 2014)
Olfactory coding in the insect brain : data and conjectures

Galizia, Giovanni ( Berlin, Heidelberg, 2013)
Neurosciences - from molecule to behavior : a university textbook

Galizia, Giovanni ( Dordrecht, 2012)
Honeybee neurobiology and behavior : a tribute to Randolf Menzel

Galizia, Giovanni ( Palo Alto, Calif., 2010)
Parallel olfactory systems in insects : anatomy and function

Galizia, Giovanni ( Konstanz, 2010)
Wie kommen die Düfte ins Gehirn? : Bericht aus der Werkstatt der Neurobiologie ; [... erweiterte Fassung des Vortrags, der am 7. November 2008 im Rahmen des 25. Wissenschaftsforums der Stiftung "Wissenschaft und Gesellschaft" und der Universität Konstanz ... gehalten wurde] Konstanzer Universitätsreden ; 235