slime mold decisions:habituation (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Friday, July 13, 2018, 22:41 (3 days ago) @ David Turell
edited by David Turell, Friday, July 13, 2018, 22:49

Has been demonstrated in that they can learn to ignore substances they generally avoid:

" Audrey Dussutour, [is] a biologist at France’s National Center for Scientific Research in Toulouse. Her group not only taught slime molds to ignore noxious substances that they would normally avoid, but demonstrated that the organisms could remember this behavior after a year of physiologically disruptive enforced sleep. But do these results prove that slime molds — and perhaps a wide range of other organisms that lack brains — can exhibit a form of primitive cognition?


"slime molds can be taught new tricks; depending on the species, they may not like caffeine, salt or strong light, but they can learn that no-go areas marked with these are not as bad as they seem, a process known as habituation.

“'By classical definitions of habituation, this primitive unicellular organism is learning, just as animals with brains do,” said Chris Reid, a behavioral biologist at Macquarie University in Australia. “As slime molds don’t have any neurons, the mechanisms of the learning process must be completely different; however, the outcome and functional significance are the same.”


"research by Dussutour and others suggests that slime molds can transfer their acquired memories from cell to cell, said František Baluška, a plant cell biologist at the University of Bonn. “This is extremely exciting for our understanding of much larger organisms such as animals, humans and plants.”


"To reach the oatmeal, the slime molds had to grow across gelatin bridges laced with either caffeine or quinine, harmless but bitter chemicals that the organisms are known to avoid.
“In the first experiment, the slime molds took 10 hours to cross the bridge and they really tried not to touch it,” Dussutour said. After two days, the slime molds began to ignore the bitter substance, and after six days each group stopped responding to the deterrent.

"The habituation that the slime molds had learned was specific to the substance: Slime molds that had habituated to caffeine were still reluctant to cross a bridge containing quinine, and vice versa. This showed that the organisms had learned to recognize a particular stimulus and to adjust their response to it, and not to push across bridges indiscriminately.


"But Dussutour wanted to push further and see whether that habituating memory could be recalled in the long term. So she and her team put the blobs to sleep for a year by drying them up in a controlled manner. In March, they woke up the blobs — which found themselves surrounded by salt. The non-habituated slime molds died, perhaps from osmotic shock because they could not cope with how rapidly moisture leaked out of their cells. “We lost a lot of slime molds like that,” Dussutour said. “But habituated ones survived.” They also quickly started extending out across their salty surroundings to hunt for food.

"What that means, according to Dussutour, who described this unpublished work at a scientific meeting in April at the University of Bremen in Germany, is that a slime mold can learn — and it can keep that knowledge during dormancy,


"More fundamentally, she said, this result also means that there is such a thing as “primitive cognition,” a form of cognition that is not restricted to organisms with a brain.

"Scientists have no idea what mechanism underpins this kind of cognition. Baluška thinks that a number of processes and molecules might be involved, and that they may vary among simple organisms. In the case of slime molds, their cytoskeleton may form smart, complex networks able to process sensory information. “They feed this information up to the nuclei,” he said.


“'Most neuroscientists I have talked to about slime mold intelligence are quite happy to accept that the experiments are valid and show similar functional outcomes to the same experiments performed on animals with brains,” Reid said. What they seem to take issue with is the use of terms traditionally reserved for psychology and neuroscience and almost universally associated with brains, such as learning, memory and intelligence. “Slime mold researchers insist that functionally equivalent behavior observed in the slime mold should use the same descriptive terms as for brained animals, while classical neuroscientists insist that the very definition of learning and intelligence requires a neuron-based architecture,” he said."

Comment: It is obvious primitive life can habituate. How the process works is unknown, but not neural in any sense. It is evidence for some form of panosychism which dhw will appreciate.

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