Slime mold is able to “think” and use physical cues to explore environments and locate growth

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July 16, 2021 03:26 GMT

The blotch-like lifeform can perform surprisingly complex calculations, such as solving mazes or displaying basic shapes from memory.

In a new study, the results of which were published in the scientific journal advanced materialsResearchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University and the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University (USA) tested the ecological awareness of a type of slime mold called ‘Physarum polycephalum’. This means that scientists have noticed how this organism, which does not have a brain or a nervous system, uses its body Detect mechanical signals in your environment To make calculations and determine the direction in which it should grow.

Physarum polycephalum is a eukaryotic organism It belongs to the Protestant kingdom It consists of plasmodium, a single large cell containing many cell nuclei that float in cytoplasmic fluid.

The lead author of the new study, Nerusha Murugan, a former fellow at the Allen Center and assistant professor at the University of Algoma in Ontario, Canada, explained that “people are becoming more interested in Physarum because it does not have a brain but can still perform many of the behaviors we associate with thinking, such as Solve mazes, learn new things and anticipate events..

“Finding out how intelligent life manages to perform this type of calculation gives us more information about the basics of animal cognition and behaviour, including our own,” he added.

In contrast to previous studies with sticky mold, the new results were obtained without giving the body No chemical or food label that affected their behaviour. The team wanted to know how the mold makes decisions in the absence of these cues, based solely on its physical environment.

“Visarum He has no nervous system inside him, It’s basically a giant cell that grows. Morgan said that Physarum is being used more and more in the realm of perception because its decisions can be read into one’s own body, “which means that the ‘thinking’ process of living things is expressed through the shape of their bodies. vice.

“It was unexpected how clear this was.”

In their experiment, the researchers placed samples of “Physarum polycephalum” in Petri dishes on a semi-flexible agar gel. A small glass disc was placed on one side of the dish, while three discs were placed side by side on the other side. Then they allowed the organisms to grow freely in the dark over a 24-hour period and tracked their growth patterns. What they found was that during the first 12 hours the slime mold grew uniformly in all directions, but then 70 percent of the samples started growing toward the three discs instead of the individual disc.

The researchers concluded that The body can perceive greater stress It was produced by the largest group of objects on the painting, suggesting that this side of the painting was an area to be explored preferentially. “It was really obvious that they were going towards a heavier block on one side,” Morgan said. “It was unexpected how clear that was; I thought it would be a little more confusing than that.”

They found the oldest complex life form on Earth, dating back two billion years

At the same time, when the three discs were stacked on top of each other, rather than side by side, the slime mold lost its favor and grew to one side or the other at roughly the same rate. This seemed to indicate that it was not just the block that caused the mold to favor the three side-by-side discs, but rather the different pressure patterns.

Research sheds light on the evolution of celestial beings, as well as what is possible Reproduce their abilities in robots or neural networks. The mechanosensory capabilities detected in ‘Physarum polycephalum’ are also similar to those in somatic cells, including neurons, so it can contribute to the study of brain function.

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