Cendra Agulhon



Conference room R229
Campus Saint Germain des Prés de l'Université de Paris, 45 rue des Saints Pères, Paris 6e


17 Jan 2020


11 h 30 min - 12 h 30 min


Neuroscience Seminar Series

Dissecting Cognitive Complexity in a Miniature Brain, by Martin Giurfa


Honeybees possess miniature brains but exhibit a sophisticated behavioral repertoire. In the last decades, bees have emerged as useful models for the study of the neural bases of simple forms of associative learning based on their capacity to learn elemental, univocal links between olfactory or visual stimuli and appetitive sucrose reinforcement. Recent work has shown the robustness of such learning and of the memories derived from i. Moreover, experiments by our team uncovered unsuspected cognitive capabilities in these insects such as conceptual forms of learning and a sense of numerosity, which require an explanatory level beyond that of elemental learning. I will discuss some of these findings, focusing on capabilities such as attentional modulation, non-elemental pattern discrimination and concept learning, and discuss their mechanistic bases in an attempt to trace them down to specific circuitries and neuromodulatory processes in the insect brain. In doing this, I will highlight experimental challenges and suggest future directions for investigating the neurobiology of higher-order learning in insects, with the goal of uncovering basic neural architectures underlying cognitive processing.

Martin Giurfa’s short biography and CV:

Martin Giurfa est professeur de classe exceptionnelle à l’Université Paul Sabatier de Toulouse, et fondateur du Centre de Recherches sur la cognition Animale, institut CNRS qu’il a dirigé depuis sa création en 2003 jusqu’en 2018. Il est membre senior de l’Institut Universitaire de France et membre de l’Académie Allemande de Sciences et de l’Académie Royale de Sciences de Belgique. Il a reçu la Médaille d’Argent du CNRS et plusieurs prix internationaux pour ses travaux de recherche. Il est professeur honoraire de nombreuses universités étrangères. Ses recherches s’intéressent aux phénomènes perceptuels, l’apprentissage et à la mémoire chez les abeilles, depuis le comportement jusqu’aux niveaux plus moléculaires.

My research focuses on invertebrate learning and memory at different organization levels, from behavior to molecules . My team uses ‘bottom-up’ and ‘top-down’ approaches and research tools from neurobiology, neuroethology, experimental psychology, computational neurosciences and molecular biology in order to characterize and understand the neuronal and molecular mechanisms underlying associative learning in bees and other insects. The multidisciplinary approach adopted in my research, which is also at the core of the institute I have founded in Toulouse, allows a better characterization of the cognitive richness and mechanisms of an animal model and provides a multi-faceted view of cognitive problems, which can be hardly understood from a single perspective. This approach allows me, in addition, to lead various federate projects allying different scientific communities such as the creation of the Research Center on Animal Cognition, the creation of the Axis Molecular, Cellular and Behavioral Neurosciences of the Center of Integrative Biology of Toulouse, and the former presidency of the National Committee ‘Brain, Behavior, Cognition’ (section 26) of the French Research Council (CNRS), among others.

Director, Research Centre on Animal Cognition, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Toulouse, France

• June 1991, PhD degree from the University of Buenos Aires
• From 1991 to 1998: Post-doctorate & different research appointments at the Free University of Berlin
• October 1996: Habilitation degree from the Free University of Berlin

• University Paul Sabatier of Toulouse Distinctions 1995
• King Baudouin Award from the International Foundation for Science (Sweden) and the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium)
• From 2002 to 2007: Elected junior member of the French Professorial Academy of Sciences (Institut Universitaire de France)
• Since 2004: Member of the National Board of the French Research Council (CNRS)
• Since 2005: Promoted Exceptional-Class professor by the French National University Council – CNU
• 2006: Silver Medal from French Research Council (CNRS) for highest scientific merit
• 2007: Elected Member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina – Biological Sciences

The objectives of our team are to study cognitive functions such as visual, olfactory and gustatory perception, learning, and memory using invertebrates as model systems. In an approach going from behavior to molecules, we try to understand how individuals extract, process, learn and memorize pertinent information from their environment and we aim at identifying the neuronal networks and processes involved in these functions.


  • 2018-now: Elected member of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Belgium
  • 2007-now: Elected member of the German National Academy of Sciences, Leopoldina, Germany.
  • 2012-2017: Elected Senior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF) , France.
  • 2003-2007: Elected Junior Member of the Institut Universitaire de France (IUF), France.


  • 2016: French Prize ‘Golden Bee’ granted by Yann-Arthus Bertrand & the French Beekeeping Society.
  • 2016-now: Elected member of the scientific council of Universcience, the City of Sciences and the Discovery Palace of the city of Paris.
  • 2016: Elected Chair of the International Congress of Neurothology, Montevideo, Uruguay.
  • 2013: International Prize of Science & Technology “Raices” of the Argentinean Government.
  • 2012: Visiting professor of Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, P.R. China.
  • 2009: Prize ‘Research Laurels’ of the city of Toulouse, France.
  • 2010 Honorary professorship, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xishuangbanna, P.R. China.
  • 2007: Silver Medal of the CNRS, France.
  • 2006: Honorary professorship, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xishuangbanna, P.R. China.
  • 2004: Elected Chair of the International Congress of Neurothology, Nyborg, Denmark.
  • 2004: Prize “Buenos Aires Piensa” (Thinking Buenos Aires) of the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • 2003-now: Elected member of Faculty of 1000 – Section Behavioral Neurosciences.
  • 2001: Young Investigator Award – Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP).
  • 1996-1998: Invited Member of the Research Initiative RULE (Rule-Related Knowledge and Rule-Related Learning in Biological Systems) of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences.
  • 1996-1998: Fellow of the German-American Council in Neuroethology – Three years of continuous scientific activities in USA and Germany funded by this institution.
  • 1995: Prize King Baudouin for Young Scientific Talents of the International Foundation for Science (Stockholm, Sweden) and the King Baudouin Foundation (Belgium).
  • 1994-1996: Alexander von Humboldt research fellowship.
  • 1990-1993: DAAD Postdoctoral research fellowship.
  • 1990: Third World Young Investigator Award of the International Foundation for Science (Stockholm, Sweden).