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Single cell (mold slime) learns

slo1
Posts: 4,364
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4/27/2016 9:22:01 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
https://www.sciencedaily.com...
For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that an organism devoid of a nervous system is capable of learning.

...

An ability to learn, and memory are key elements in the animal world. Learning from experiences and adapting behavior accordingly are vital for an animal living in a fluctuating and potentially dangerous environment. This faculty is generally considered to be the prerogative of organisms endowed with a brain and nervous system. However, single-celled organisms also need to adapt to change. Do they display an ability to learn? Bacteria certainly show adaptability, but it takes several generations to develop and is more a result of evolution.

....

During a nine-day experiment, the scientists thus challenged different groups of this mold with bitter but harmless substances that they needed to pass through in order to reach a food source. Two groups were confronted either by a "bridge" impregnated with quinine, or with caffeine, while the control group only needed to cross a non-impregnated bridge. Initially reluctant to travel through the bitter substances, the molds gradually realized that they were harmless, and crossed them increasingly rapidly -- behaving after six days in the same way as the control group. The cell thus learned not to fear a harmless substance after being confronted with it on several occasions, a phenomenon that the scientists refer to as habituation. After two days without contact with the bitter substance, the mold returned to its initial behavior of distrust. Furthermore, a protist habituated to caffeine displayed distrustful behavior towards quinine, and vice versa. Habituation was therefore clearly specific to a given substance.
slo1
Posts: 4,364
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4/27/2016 9:24:58 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
Absolutely fascinating. I do find it rather revealing that our language around learning (habituation is a much better word) really contains many personifications.

IE: "the molds gradually realized that they were harmless"

It didn't "realize" anything. There had to be environmental biochemical reactions which drove the behavior. I guess the next step is that we need to understand how they did this.

Absolutely fantastic study though.
Greyparrot
Posts: 14,337
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4/27/2016 9:54:39 PM
Posted: 7 months ago
At 4/27/2016 9:22:01 PM, slo1 wrote:
https://www.sciencedaily.com...
For the first time, scientists have demonstrated that an organism devoid of a nervous system is capable of learning.

...

An ability to learn, and memory are key elements in the animal world. Learning from experiences and adapting behavior accordingly are vital for an animal living in a fluctuating and potentially dangerous environment. This faculty is generally considered to be the prerogative of organisms endowed with a brain and nervous system. However, single-celled organisms also need to adapt to change. Do they display an ability to learn? Bacteria certainly show adaptability, but it takes several generations to develop and is more a result of evolution.

....

During a nine-day experiment, the scientists thus challenged different groups of this mold with bitter but harmless substances that they needed to pass through in order to reach a food source. Two groups were confronted either by a "bridge" impregnated with quinine, or with caffeine, while the control group only needed to cross a non-impregnated bridge. Initially reluctant to travel through the bitter substances, the molds gradually realized that they were harmless, and crossed them increasingly rapidly -- behaving after six days in the same way as the control group. The cell thus learned not to fear a harmless substance after being confronted with it on several occasions, a phenomenon that the scientists refer to as habituation. After two days without contact with the bitter substance, the mold returned to its initial behavior of distrust. Furthermore, a protist habituated to caffeine displayed distrustful behavior towards quinine, and vice versa. Habituation was therefore clearly specific to a given substance.

I guess DNA can be kind of like memory?