Slime Molds can learn

Slime Molds, mein Lieblingsglibber unter den Einzellern, können lernen. Jetzt muss man die nur noch mit Neural Networks kreuzen (ein Roboter-Gesicht hatten Slime Molds schon vor einer ganzen Weile am Start), dann kann der Blob endlich die Weltherrschaft an sich reißen. Yay, Slime Molds!

French scientists took a poke at humans’ intellectual hegemony by demonstrating, for the first time ever, that a single-celled organism without a brain or nervous system is capable of learning. The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could force us to reconsider the primordial origins of learning that occurred long before the evolution of lifeforms with brains.

A team of biologists from the Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale observed a type of slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) adapting and changing to a series of repetitive challenges—exhibiting a form of learning called “habituation.”

Two groups of slime mold were presented with two separate obstacles to cross: a bridge impregnated with quinine or caffeine, and a bridge free of any substance. Once the experimental group realized the bitter quinine and caffeine were harmless, it passed through the substances with the same ease and swiftness as the control group crossed over the non-impregnated bridge. According to the study, this learning process took six days to encode.