Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thinking Without Neurons

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While less recognized than their animal counterparts, many non-neuronal organisms, such as plants, bacteria, fungi and protists, also have the ability to make complex decisions in difficult environments (for a full review, see [1]). The most incredible feats of problem-solving among non-neuronal organisms, many previously reported only in the so-called cognitive organisms, have been demonstrated by the unicellular slime mould Physarum polycephalum. This unicellular protist lacks a central nervous system and possesses no neurons, yet it has been demonstrated to solve convoluted labyrinth mazes [2], find shortest length networks and solve challenging optimization problems [3], anticipate periodic events [4], use its slime trail as an externalized spatial memory system to avoid revisiting areas it has already explored [5] and even construct transport networks that have similar efficiency to those designed by human engineers [6].

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The reference that got me was "amoebae anticipating periodic events".