A new study from the University of Illinois reveals that a regulatory gene known to be involved in learning and the detection of novelty in vertebrates also energizes the brains of honey bees when they are learning how to find food and bring it home.

The study shows that whenever bees try to find their way around an unfamiliar environment, activity in this gene, known as Egr, quickly increases in a region of the brain known as the mushroom bodies. The researchers say that this gene is the insect equivalent of a transcription factor – which regulates the activity of other genes -  found in mammals.