Information transfer during food choice in the slime mold Physarum polycephalum

Subash K. Ray, Gabriele Valentini, Purva Shah, Abid Haque, Chris R. Reid, Gregory F. Weber, Simon Garnier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Throughout evolution, living systems have developed mechanisms to make adaptive decisions in the face of complex and changing environmental conditions. Most organisms make such decisions despite lacking a neural architecture. This is the case of the acellular slime mold Physarum polycephalum that has demonstrated remarkable information processing and problem-solving abilities. Previous studies suggest that the membrane of P. polycephalum plays an important role in integrating and processing information leading to the selection of a resource to exploit. The cyclical contraction-relaxation pattern of the membrane changes with the local quality of the environment, and individual contractile regions within a P. polycephalum can entrain neighboring regions, providing a potential mechanism for information processing and propagation. In this study, we use an information-theoretic tool, transfer entropy, to study the flow of information in single tubule segments of P. polycephalum in a binary choice between two food sources. We test P. polycephalum tubules in two food choice conditions, where the two available options are either symmetric in their nutrient concentrations or with one more concentrated in nutrients than the other (i.e., asymmetric). We measure the contractile pattern of the P. polycephalum membrane and use these data to explore the direction and amount of information transfer along the tubule as a function of the cell's final decision. We find that the direction of information transfer is different in the two experimental conditions, and the amount of information transferred is inversely proportional to the distance between different contractile regions. Our results show that regions playing a leading role in information transfer changes with the decision-making challenges faced by P. polycephalum.

LanguageEnglish
Article number67
Pages1-11
Number of pages11
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Volume7
Issue numberMAR
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2019

Fingerprint

slime mould
Physarum polycephalum
information exchange
food choices
molds (fungi)
information processing
food
membrane
nutrient
contraction
entropy
environmental conditions
decision making
Myxogastrea
information transfer
resource
nutrient content
decision
environmental factors
organisms

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • slime mold
  • protist
  • Physarum polycephalum
  • non-neuronal
  • decision-making
  • food choice
  • information theory
  • transfer entropy

Cite this

Ray, Subash K. ; Valentini, Gabriele ; Shah, Purva ; Haque, Abid ; Reid, Chris R. ; Weber, Gregory F. ; Garnier, Simon. / Information transfer during food choice in the slime mold Physarum polycephalum. In: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 2019 ; Vol. 7, No. MAR. pp. 1-11.
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Information transfer during food choice in the slime mold Physarum polycephalum. / Ray, Subash K.; Valentini, Gabriele; Shah, Purva; Haque, Abid; Reid, Chris R.; Weber, Gregory F.; Garnier, Simon.

In: Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Vol. 7, No. MAR, 67, 19.03.2019, p. 1-11.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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AU - Ray,Subash K.

AU - Valentini,Gabriele

AU - Shah,Purva

AU - Haque,Abid

AU - Reid,Chris R.

AU - Weber,Gregory F.

AU - Garnier,Simon

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Y1 - 2019/3/19

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AB - Throughout evolution, living systems have developed mechanisms to make adaptive decisions in the face of complex and changing environmental conditions. Most organisms make such decisions despite lacking a neural architecture. This is the case of the acellular slime mold Physarum polycephalum that has demonstrated remarkable information processing and problem-solving abilities. Previous studies suggest that the membrane of P. polycephalum plays an important role in integrating and processing information leading to the selection of a resource to exploit. The cyclical contraction-relaxation pattern of the membrane changes with the local quality of the environment, and individual contractile regions within a P. polycephalum can entrain neighboring regions, providing a potential mechanism for information processing and propagation. In this study, we use an information-theoretic tool, transfer entropy, to study the flow of information in single tubule segments of P. polycephalum in a binary choice between two food sources. We test P. polycephalum tubules in two food choice conditions, where the two available options are either symmetric in their nutrient concentrations or with one more concentrated in nutrients than the other (i.e., asymmetric). We measure the contractile pattern of the P. polycephalum membrane and use these data to explore the direction and amount of information transfer along the tubule as a function of the cell's final decision. We find that the direction of information transfer is different in the two experimental conditions, and the amount of information transferred is inversely proportional to the distance between different contractile regions. Our results show that regions playing a leading role in information transfer changes with the decision-making challenges faced by P. polycephalum.

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