Costs of memory: lessons from ‘mini’ brains

James G. Burns, Julien Foucaud, Frederic Mery


Variation in learning and memory abilities among closely related species, or even among populations of the same species, has opened research into the relationship between cognition, ecological context and the fitness costs, and benefits of learning and memory. Such research programmes have long been dominated by vertebrate studies and by the assumption of a relationship between cognitive abilities, brain size and metabolic costs. Research on these ‘large brained’ organisms has provided important insights into the understanding of cognitive functions and their adaptive value. In the present review, we discuss some aspects of the fitness costs of learning and memory by focusing on ‘mini-brain’ studies. Research on learning and memory in insects has challenged some traditional positions and is pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the evolution of learning and memory.


  • One contribution to a Special Feature ‘Information processing in miniature brains’.

  • Received November 15, 2010.
  • Accepted November 29, 2010.
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