Brainless slime mould makes decisions like humans | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine

August 14, 2010 § Leave a comment

Another example of “We are all connected” is demonstrated elegantly by tiny single-celled, amoeba-like creatures that don’t even have a brain.

“Physarum spends most of its life as a large mat called a ‘plasmodium’, which is a single cell that contains many nuclei. The plasmodium searches for food by moving along like an amoeba and sending out a network of tendrils. Its search patterns are very sophisticated for a brainless organism. A Japanese group found that if they placed the mould among food sources arranged like Tokyo’s urban centres, it created a network that closely resembled Tokyo’s actual railway system. The slimy network was optimised to transport nutrients to the main plasmodium.”

“But how does Physarum make decisions at all without a brain?  The answer is deceptively simple – it does so by committee. Every plasmodium is basically a big sac of fluid, where each part rhythmically contracts and expands, pushing the fluid inside back-and-forth. The rate of the contractions depends on what neighbouring parts of the sac are doing, and by the local environment. They happen faster when the plasmodium touches something attractive like food, and they slow down when repellent things like sunlight are nearby.” Read the full story

via Brainless slime mould makes decisions like humans | Not Exactly Rocket Science | Discover Magazine.

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