Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Slime Moulds – Internalised Spatial “Memory” to Navigate Complex Environments

An organism’s navigational ability is enhanced by spatial memory, which is typically located in a brain, but slime moulds have no brain. In this paper Reid et al. show that Physarum polycephalum, a slime mould that lacks a brain, constructs a form of spatial memory by avoiding areas it has explored previously. The slime mould is able to solve the U-shaped trap problem, a classic test of autonomous navigational ability that is commonly used in robotics, by this mechanism by allowing the slime mould to find a chemoattractive goal behind a U-shaped barrier. Once the organism is in the trap it must use methods other than gradient-following to escape and reach the goal. It is shown by their data that spatial memory enhances the organism’s ability to navigate in complex environments. This study provided a unique demonstration of a spatial memory system in a nonneuronal organism, which supports the theory that a spatial memory that is externalised may be the functional precursor to the internal memory used by higher organisms.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Reid, C. R., T. Latty, A. Dussutour and M. Beekman (2012). "Slime mold (slime mould) uses an externalized spatial “memory” to navigate in complex environments." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109(43): 17490-17494.


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 19/04/2015
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