slime mold decisions (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Wednesday, June 08, 2016, 17:48 (1451 days ago) @ dhw

this is a new study that gave slime mold two food direction choices and the mld picked the one with the most food:

"How do organisms without brains make decisions? Most of life is brainless and the vast majority of organisms on Earth lack neurons altogether. Plants, fungi and bacteria must all cope with the same problem as humans - to make the best choices in a complex and ever-changing world or risk dying - without the help of a simple nervous system in many cases.


"This giant cell, which typically lives in shady, cool and moist areas of temperate forests, spreads out to search its environment like an amoeba, extending oozy tendrils along the forest floor in search of its prey of fungi, bacteria and decaying vegetable matter.

"Neither plant, animal nor fungus, P. polycephalum has become an unlikely candidate for studies of cognition, due to its spectacular problem-solving abilities. In recent studies, Physarum has been shown to solve labyrinth mazes, make complicated trade-offs, anticipate periodic events, remember where it has been, construct transport networks that have similar efficiency to those designed by human engineers and even make irrational decisions - a capability that has long been viewed as a by-product of brain circuitry.


"The researchers adapted the two-armed bandit test for slime mold by giving the organism the choice to explore two opposite directions. In each direction, the slime mold encountered discrete patches of food, more or less regularly distributed. One direction would contain more of these patches than the other. They then observed how far in each direction the slime mold would explore before switching to the exploitation of one of the two directions only. The results of these experiments demonstrate that slime mold compares the relative qualities of multiple options, most often choosing the direction with the higher overall concentration of food. It was able to sum up the number of food patches encountered in each direction, as well as the quantity of food present at each patch to make correct and adaptive decisions as to the direction it should move next.

"The slime mold's decision-making algorithm can be mathematically described as a tendency to exploit environments in proportion to their reward experienced through past sampling. The algorithm is intermediate in computational complexity between simple, reactionary heuristics and calculation-intensive optimal performance algorithms, yet it has very good relative performance.

"'Working with Physarum constantly challenges our preconceived notions of the minimum biological hardware that is required for sophisticated behavior," says Simon Garnier, an assistant professor of biology at NJIT and the principal investigator of the study."

Comment: I presented this study because it contains the key to our debate over 'intelligence' vs. intelligently planned molecular reactions in unicellular organisms. If the biologic hardware can be found it will tell us how concentrations are read. I suspect it is in molecular feedback loops which are automatically operating and support me. If the 'intelligence' is something else, dhw is supported. 'Intelligence' in quotes to signify a different quality than the human form.

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