Can a Cell Make Decisions?

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Can a Cell Make Decisions?

Jennifer Frazer


Quote:In short, stentors could confront a stimulus with one behavior, and then choose a costlier approach if the irritant persisted. At least for a short while (a period that Jennings declared difficult to determine experimentally and still unresolved), it could “remember” that it had tried one solution without success, and opt for another.

But in 1967, scientists from a different school of animal behavior repeated his experiment and failed to produce the same result. And with that, Jennings’s findings were consigned to the dustbin.

Then about 10 years ago, Jeremy Gunawardena, an associate professor of systems biology at Harvard Medical School, discovered the experiment and its defenestration and decided that it deserved another look. To his surprise, he discovered the 1967 team had not used the correct species of Stentor (being behaviorists who believed variation flowed from the environment and not genes, they might have felt the species didn’t matter). The one they had chosen, Stentor coeruleus, strongly prefers to swim, unlike Jennings’s Stentor roeselii, which prefers to chill poolside.

Gunawardena became fascinated by what replicating the experiment might reveal about what single cells are capable of...
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell


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I remembered reading about this (absolutely fascinating) study earlier, and tracked down the source. Turns out you'd posted a different article about it in the 2019-12-17 thread, Can a single-celled organism 'change its mind'? New study says yes
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(2021-05-23, 07:25 PM)Sciborg_S_Patel Wrote: Can a Cell Make Decisions?

Jennifer Frazer

Of course, a living cell can process information objects, such as affordances, that change probabilities in their environments.  It is the tools that are being applied that jump off the page for me.

Quote: So, the three fell back on their core expertise as quantitative biologists. They developed a method to encode the different behaviors they saw into a series of symbols, and then used statistical analyses to look for patterns.
[Image: giphy.gif][i]If bending and cilia alteration are insufficient, [/i]S. roeselii [i]will contract onto its holdfast, or detach and swim away. Video: Dexter et al, 2019.[/i]
Where observation failed, math triumphed. There was, indeed, a behavioral hierarchy, the analysis revealed. 
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