Simple, Brainless Organisms Store Memories Externally

Barely-alive creatures, such as the slime mold at right, are able to produce “memories” — they just store them in their physical surroundings rather than a brain, Ars Technica has the latest news on the secret lives of simple beings:

Is it possible to know where you’ve been when you don’t have a brain? Depending on your definition of “know,” the answer may be yes. Researchers have shown that the slime mold, an organism without anything that resembles a nervous system (or, for that matter, individual cells), is capable of impressive feats of navigation. It can even link food sources in optimally spaced networks. Now, researchers have shown it’s capable of filling its environment with indications of where it has already searched for food, allowing it to “remember” its past efforts and focus its attention on routes it hasn’t explored.

In the course of studying the slime mold, some researchers noticed that the slime mold would avoid any areas covered in slime. Based on this finding, the authors hypothesized that the mold “uses its [the slime’s] presence as an externalized spatial memory system to recognize and avoid areas it has already explored.” So, they came up with a test that, in their words, “challenged our slime mold.”

17 Comments on "Simple, Brainless Organisms Store Memories Externally"

  1. Liam_McGonagle | Oct 11, 2012 at 10:59 am |

    How embarrassing for humanity!  We developed external memory storage (i.e., writing) only 4,000 years ago.  Next thing you know Slime Mold will be running a candidate for president!

    Oh wait.  They’re running two this year . . .

  2. Liam_McGonagle | Oct 11, 2012 at 10:59 am |

    How embarrassing for humanity!  We developed external memory storage (i.e., writing) only 4,000 years ago.  Next thing you know Slime Mold will be running a candidate for president!

    Oh wait.  They’re running two this year . . .

    • Calypso_1 | Oct 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm |

      You are fortunate it is beneath the dignity of the patient & noble race of Slime Molds to take insult at such effrontery. 

    • Calypso_1 | Oct 11, 2012 at 9:17 pm |

      You are fortunate it is beneath the dignity of the patient & noble race of Slime Molds to take insult at such effrontery. 

      • Liam_McGonagle | Oct 12, 2012 at 9:10 am |

        I know it’s only a matter of time.  I’ve only got another 60 years ahead of me tops and then the game’ll be over.

      • Liam_McGonagle | Oct 12, 2012 at 9:10 am |

        I know it’s only a matter of time.  I’ve only got another 60 years ahead of me tops and then the game’ll be over.

        • Calypso_1 | Oct 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

          Perhaps within the collective mind of the plasmodial gelantinoids is an experience of transudative ecstasy as of yet incomprehensible or at least long forgotten to our cerebral bound consciousnesses? 
          Lo, awaiting us on the other side of putrefaction the detritophages may carry us into worlds of unknown marvel and awe.
           

        • Calypso_1 | Oct 14, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

          Perhaps within the collective mind of the plasmodial gelantinoids is an experience of transudative ecstasy as of yet incomprehensible or at least long forgotten to our cerebral bound consciousnesses? 
          Lo, awaiting us on the other side of putrefaction the detritophages may carry us into worlds of unknown marvel and awe.
           

  3. bogus link

  4. bogus link

  5. National Geographic’s article covering the same thing, published October 8, 2012. ::: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/121008-brainless-slime-goo-spatial-memory-robot-slime-science-reid/

  6. National Geographic’s article covering the same thing, published October 8, 2012. ::: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/10/121008-brainless-slime-goo-spatial-memory-robot-slime-science-reid/

    • Liam_McGonagle | Oct 11, 2012 at 11:33 am |

      Those Slime Mold guys have got some aggressive PR machine.  Must have an inside line to the industry.

  7. how cute
    humans are discovering that nature solves problem in a multitude of ways
    wait till they discover that slim mold is more than barely alive

  8. how cute
    humans are discovering that nature solves problem in a multitude of ways
    wait till they discover that slim mold is more than barely alive

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