Brains are really complicated, even for the smallest of critters. If you're a scientist who studies brains, then you might try to use some common words so that other scientists will know what you're trying to communicate. People who study vertebrates generally agree on their terminology, which makes mammal and bird brains a bit easier to talk about.
Until recently, those who studied arthropod brains - invertebrates like insects, spiders, and crustaceans - didn't really have a common lexicon. That's despite the fact that those critters are really important for understanding everyone from evolution to the biochemical pathways that underlie addiction-related behaviors. We've actually learned a lot about our own brains by studying arthropods. One of the main workhorses of modern biology, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster (depicted above and below), is an arthropod after all!
Now, the "Insect Brain Name Working Group," an international team led by Kei Ito and Kazunori Shinomiya of the Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the University of Tokyo, has changed all that. They not only tripled the number of identified brain structures, but also created a lexicon that can now be used by arthropod researchers.
Different regions, cells, fibers and connections of the brain of the fruit fly, Drosophila. Shown here is the left hemisphere, seen from the front.
Also check out this interactive 3D rendering to explore the brain of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster.
[Kei Ito et al., Neuron. Images used with permission.]