Segments in this Video

Introduction: Secret Mind of Slime (03:15)


A single-celled organism has no brain, no organs, and no neurons, yet it exhibits behaviors normally associated with animals that have central nervous systems. Scientists wonder if it possesses intelligence. (Credits)

Types of Slime Mold (04:47)

There are over 900 species that live in leaf litter, soil, and on wood. Before plants, fungi, and animals, slime molds branch off the tree of life; Physarum polycephalum grows easiest in the lab. Toshiyuki Nakagaki researches slime that navigates mazes.

Physarum Polycephalum (03:36)

Tanya Latty collaborates with Audrey Dussutour who notices the slime mold doubles in size daily and finds food; it can detect moister, pH levels, and light.

Slime Mold Experiment (05:43)

Dussutour and Latty offer Physarum polycephalum a choice of custards made with varying ratios of proteins to sugar. It takes 24 hours to complete a single test. Scientists rely on time-lapse photography to document its pseudopods.

Mapping Movement (04:44)

The veins of slime mold are constantly pulsing, driving the cell forwards. The growth front is Physarum polycephalum's forward-moving branches. Hans-Gunther Dobereiner shreds the slime mold and realizes its parts are interchangeable.

Adaptive Transportation Network (04:32)

In an experiment, Physarum polycephalum eliminates unproductive pathways of a maze and links two food sources by the shortest path. The slime mold reconfigures its network of veins similar; it does not repeat movements.

"U-Shaped Trap" (02:35)

Robots remain trapped in the loop without a navigational memory. Latty and Dussutour conclude that Physarum polycephalum's trail serves as an external memory.

Defining Intelligence (06:40)

In the mid-20th century, researchers start documenting cognitive abilities in animals. Stefano Mancuso discovers a specific region in a plant's root that sends out electrical signals. "Habituation" enables organisms to filter out irrelevant information.

Physarum Polycephalum Memory (04:03)

The slime mold crosses a bridge covered in salt in less time each day, proving that it is capable of learning.

Electrical Signals (06:02)

In an experiment, planarians grow two heads when changing bioelectrical signals between cells. Physarum polycephalum processes information and adapts to the world around it. It executes behaviors by altering its body structure.

Transferring Learning (05:48)

Dividing a Physarum polycephalum in half results in two living organisms. The slime mold demonstrates the ability to communicate information about experiences through its veins after fusion. Physarum exhibits a different personality based on its origin.

Credits: Secret Mind of Slime (00:57)

Credits: Secret Mind of Slime

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Secret Mind of Slime

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Who says you need brains to be smart? Extremely primitive life-forms called slime molds can navigate mazes, choose between foods, and create efficient networks—no brain required. New research on these organisms, which are neither plant nor animal, could help reveal the fundamental rules underlying all decision making.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL215286

Copyright date: ©2020

Closed Captioned

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