Protoplasmic Computing to Memorize and Recall Periodic Environmental Events

  • Atsushi Tero
  • Tetsu Saigusa
  • Toshiyuki Nakagaki
Conference paper
Part of the Proceedings in Information and Communications Technology book series (PICT, volume 1)


Single-celled organisms might be more intelligent than previously envisaged [1]-[5]. The acts of anticipating and recalling events are higher functions performed by the brains of higher animals; their evolutionary origins and the way they self-organize, however, remain open questions. Here we show that an amoeboid organism can anticipate the timing of periodic events. The plasmodium of the true slime mold Physarum polycephalum moves rapidly under favorable conditions, but stops moving when transferred to less-favorable conditions. For example, plasmodia exposed to low temperature and low humidity, presented in three consecutive pulses at constant intervals, reduced their locomotive speed in response to each episode. When favorable conditions were subsequently reintroduced, the plasmodia spontaneously reduced their locomotive speed at the point in time when the next unfavorable episode would have occurred. This implies that the plasmodia are able to anticipate impending environmental change. After this anticipatory response had been evoked several times, the locomotion of the plasmodia returned to normal speed; however, the slowing down could subsequently be induced by a single unfavorable pulse, implying recall of the periodicity that had been memorized. We have explored the mechanisms underlying this behavior from a dynamical systems perspective. Our results suggest that this primitive intelligence is of cellular origin and that simple dynamics might be sufficient to explain its emergence. abstract environment.


Physarum cell memory subcellular computing primitive intelligence 


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Copyright information

© Springer Tokyo 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Atsushi Tero
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tetsu Saigusa
    • 1
    • 3
  • Toshiyuki Nakagaki
    • 1
  1. 1.Research Institute For Electronic ScienceHokkaido University, N12 W6SapporoJapan
  2. 2.PRESTOJapan Science and Technology AgencySaitamaJapan
  3. 3.Graduate School of EngineeringHokkaido University, N13 W8SapporoJapan

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