Brainless Slime Mold is Able to Assess its Environment to Make Decisions

The lack of a brain represents a major obstacle for most animals – yet not in the form of a thin mold called Physarum polycephalum, which retains the ability to calculate its environment and make important decisions about where to go. According to the new study in the Journal of Advanced Materials, incense-like creatures use “mechanization” to respond to the shape, size, and mass of other objects and to navigate their surroundings. Clearly, phyzaram is not a true mold, but it is a combination of individual eukaryotic cells that are enclosed within a single membrane and float around in all the divided cytoplasm.

The organism is able to go through a process called shuttle streaming, which involves moving this watery cytoplasm back and forth at a wave-like speed. Previous studies have shown that, despite not having any kind of neural architecture, Fitzaram is able to locate a piece of food at the center of a labyrinth, sorting through chemical signals to detect its reward. However, researchers are interested in determining whether Slim can make a decision in the absence of such a signal.

To investigate this, the authors of the study placed organisms with organ-flexible agar gel in a petri dish, a small glass disc at one end and three discs spread evenly at the other end. In their writings, they reported that Fitzram chose to move to the three-disk region in um0 percent of experiments and showed a clear preference for this system over single-disk. The researchers speculated that Slim was able to detect distortions in the agar gel produced by these discs and chose to move to the most deformed region in anticipation of finding a larger food.

However, when the test was repeated, this time one by one, one by one, one by one, one by one, one by one, one by one, one by one. “The experiment was repeated, this time involving three discs on top of each other and a single disc on the other side, Fitzram no longer showed a preference for heavier objects and proceeded to both regions with almost equal frequencies. This kind of finding indicates that the organism does not use a single mass to determine which way to go, but more factors are considered. To further understand, the researchers used computer modeling to analyze the amount of pressure in the agar gel by each arrangement of the disk.