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      A Would-Be Nervous System Made from a Slime Mold

      Artificial Life

      MIT Press - Journals

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          Abstract

          The slime mold Physarum polycephalum is a huge single cell that has proved to be a fruitful material for designing novel computing architectures. The slime mold is capable of sensing tactile, chemical, and optical stimuli and converting them to characteristic patterns of its electrical potential oscillations. The electrical responses to stimuli may propagate along protoplasmic tubes for distances exceeding tens of centimeters, as impulses in neural pathways do. A slime mold makes decisions about its propagation direction based on information fusion from thousands of spatially extended protoplasmic loci, similarly to a neuron collecting information from its dendritic tree. The analogy is distant yet inspiring. We speculate on whether alternative-would-be-nervous systems can be developed and practically implemented from the slime mold. We uncover analogies between the slime mold and neurons, and demonstrate that the slime mold can play the roles of primitive mechanoreceptors, photoreceptors, and chemoreceptors; we also show how the Physarum neural pathways develop. The results constituted the first step towards experimental laboratory studies of nervous system implementation in slime molds.

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          Most cited references 54

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          Nanoscale memristor device as synapse in neuromorphic systems.

          A memristor is a two-terminal electronic device whose conductance can be precisely modulated by charge or flux through it. Here we experimentally demonstrate a nanoscale silicon-based memristor device and show that a hybrid system composed of complementary metal-oxide semiconductor neurons and memristor synapses can support important synaptic functions such as spike timing dependent plasticity. Using memristors as synapses in neuromorphic circuits can potentially offer both high connectivity and high density required for efficient computing.
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            Microfluidic memory and control devices.

            We demonstrate microscopic fluidic control and memory elements through the use of an aqueous viscoelastic polymer solution as a working fluid. By exploiting the fluid's non-Newtonian rheological properties, we were able to demonstrate both a flux stabilizer and a bistable flip-flop memory. These circuit elements are analogous to their solid-state electronic counterparts and could be used as components of control systems for integrated microfluidic devices. Such miniaturized fluidic circuits are insensitive to electromagnetic interference and may also find medical applications for implanted drug-delivery devices.
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              Path finding by tube morphogenesis in an amoeboid organism

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Artificial Life
                Artificial Life
                MIT Press - Journals
                1064-5462
                1530-9185
                February 2015
                February 2015
                : 21
                : 1
                : 73-91
                Article
                10.1162/ARTL_a_00153
                25514435
                © 2015

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