Researchers have shown that bees can 'turn back time' at least in terms of mental abilities. The study might help scientists create drugs that reverse cognitive decline in humans.

According to the researchers, bees lose their ability to learn new things when they go out foraging. But, when they look after their young their learning abilities increase.

"We knew from previous research that when bees stay in the nest and take care of larvae – the bee babies – they remain mentally competent for as long as we observe them. However, after a period of nursing, bees fly out gathering food and begin aging very quickly. After just two weeks, foraging bees have worn wings, hairless bodies, and more importantly, lose brain function – basically measured as the ability to learn new things," said Gro Amdam, associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and lead author of the study.

Researchers tried to find what happened when these foraging bees were made to babysit the bee larvae. They did this by removing all young bees from the nest and leaving only the older ones in the nest. Some of the older bees went out foraging while some stayed back in the nest. It turns out that the bees that came back to take care of the larvae developed abilities to learn new things.

Researchers also found that proteins in the bees' brain changed when they came to their nest duty, especially two proteins called Prx6 and chaperone protein.

Prx6 is present in humans and helps protect against dementia while the 'chaperone protein' protects other proteins from stress-induced damage.

It'll take at least 30 more years of basic research before new drugs that help humans slow metal decline are developed, according to the news release.

"Maybe social interventions like changing how you deal with your surroundings are something we can do today to help our brains stay younger. Since the proteins being researched in people are the same proteins bees have, these proteins may be able to spontaneously respond to specific social experiences," said Amdam.

The study is published in the journal Experimental Gerontology.