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Can plants learn?

9 Dec

In his famous book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes mentions his experiments on learning in mimosa plants. I found this fascinating and always wish he had provided more detail. Now a paper published in Nature points to evidence that plants are capable of associative learning. From the abstract:

Here we show that this type of learning occurs in the garden pea, Pisum sativum. By using a Y-maze task, we show that the position of a neutral cue, predicting the location of a light source, affected the direction of plant growth. This learned behaviour prevailed over innate phototropism. Notably, learning was successful only when it occurred during the subjective day, suggesting that behavioural performance is regulated by metabolic demands. Our results show that associative learning is an essential component of plant behaviour. We conclude that associative learning represents a universal adaptive mechanism shared by both animals and plants.

Can slime mold learn?

29 Apr

The research on slime mold learning is fascinating. Here is a piece from The LA Times:

“Take the slime mold, for example. It’s an amoeba-like, single-celled organism filled with multiple nuclei, part of a primitive lineage that’s been munching on bacteria, fungi and other forest detritus for hundreds of millions of years. And yet, this very simple living thing manages all kinds of intellectual feats.”

“For example, Japanese researchers have found that slime molds can accurately “design” an efficient rail system when yummy oats are placed where major cities would be on the map. Slime molds can also solve mazes, backing up from dead ends until they find the food at the end, and even anticipate predictable changes, such as a light turning on at regular intervals.”


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