[Seminar] "The ‘Social brain Hypothesis’ – does it apply to insects?" by Prof. Wulfila Gronenberg


Monday, November 25, 2019 - 14:00 to 15:00


C700, Level C, Lab 3



The ‘social brain hypothesis’ attempts to explain why social vertebrates, and primates including hominids in particular, have enlarged brains or brain components. The idea suggests that social group living requires additional brain capabilities resulting in increased brain component size compared to solitary animals. For almost a century, this idea has been more or less directly applied to social insects, which were supposed to have particularly elaborate brains. Recently, the applicability of the ‘social brain hypothesis’ to social insects has been questioned.

In this seminar, I will briefly introduce some general characteristics of insect brains, then focus on aspects of hymenopteran (wasps, bees and ants) brains and discuss why it is difficult to determine what a “social” insect brain should be like.


1972 - 74         Technical University Berlin, Germany: Chemistry
1974 - 77         Free University Berlin, Germany:  Biology
1977 - 79         Free University Berlin, Germany:  Zoology (Master’s Program)
1980 - 84         Free University Berlin, Germany:  Zoology  (Ph.D. Program)

Chronology of Employment
1977 - 1984    Animal Physiology, Free University of West Berlin: Graduate Research Assistant
1984               Department of Biology, Technical University of West Berlin: Postdoctoral Research Assistant
1985 - 1988    Department of Zoology, University of Frankfurt, Germany: Postdoctoral Research Associate
1988 - 1990    Arizona Research Labs (ARL) Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona: Postdoctoral Research Associate
1991 ARL       Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona: Assistant Research Scientist
1991-1995      Dept. of Behavioral Physiology and Sociobiology, University of Würzburg, Germany: Assistant Professor
1995 - 1999    Dept. of Behavioral Physiology and Sociobiology, University of Würzburg: Associate Professor without tenure
1999 - 2001    ARL Division of Neurobiology, University of Arizona: Associate Professor (tenure pending)
2001 - 2016    ARL Division of Neurobiology (now Dept. of Neuroscience), U of A: Associate Professor
2016 - current Dept. of Neuroscience, U of A: Full Professor

Major fields
Neuroscience; neuroethology; animal behavior; zoology

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