Heather Barnett: What humans can learn from semi-intelligent slime

A fascinating TED Talk about Physarum polycephalum (slime mould), and it’s amazing abilities including

  • Ability to merge with others to form a super sized single cell organism to maximize resources
  • Solve the Traveling Salesman problem
  • Learn, remember,  solve problems, adapt to surroundings and form efficient biological networks

It  does not have a visible nervous system, but apparently uses the pulsing rhythm of flow back and forth to transmit information and nutrients.

What intrigues me about this organism is that as a single celled organism with its primitive intelligence, it can solve complex problems. What does that mean to us?  our bodies are made up of trillions of cells and I believe, our cells should have the same capabilities.

Given my area of research, in cardiac electrophysiology, I am always learning, investigating and experimenting with cardiac cells and tissue. I have always believed that these cells have intelligence and the ability to adapt and solve most biological problems – diseases, foreign invasion etc., on their own, without outside help.  Perhaps, there is a way, we can learn from these cells and find more effective ways to treat heart diseases.