Tiny, brainless blobs might be able to make decisions: A single-celled organism can “change its mind” to avoid going near an irritating substance, according to new findings.
I can think of several “brainless blobs” right away who seem to be in charge of the misguided and counterproductive response to the crisis of overdose deaths.
Over a century ago, American zoologist Herbert Spencer Jennings conducted an experiment on a relatively large, trumpet-shaped, single-celled organism called Stentor roeselii.
When Jennings released an irritating carmine powder around the organisms, he observed that they responded in a predictable pattern,
To avoid the powder, the organism first would try to bend its body around the powder.
- If that didn’t work, the blob would reverse the movement of its cilia — hairlike projections that help it move and feed — to push away the surrounding particles.
- If that still didn’t work, the organism would contract around its point of attachment on a surface to feed.
- And finally, if all else failed, it would detach from the surface and swim away.
“They do the simple things first, but if you keep stimulating, they ‘decide’ to try something else,” Gunawardena said. “S. roeselii has no brain, but there seems to be some mechanism that, in effect, lets it ‘change its mind’ once it feels like the irritation has gone on too long.”
Proof that people without brains can still seem functional and make decisions.
Is that how we ended up with so many people “deciding” to follow the PROPaganda-fueled response to the misidentified “opioid crisis”?
The findings can help inform cancer research and even change the way we think about our own cells.
Rather than being solely “programmed” to do something by our genes, “cells exist in a very complex ecosystem, and they are, in a way, talking and negotiating with each other, responding to signals and making decisions,” Gunawardena said.
Single-celled organisms, whose ancestors once ruled the ancient world, might be “much more sophisticated than we generally give them credit for,” he said.