The Loh Down On Science

Moldy Memories

Hey, slime mold--thanks for the memories!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Meet Physarum polycephalum, an oozy organism better known as a slime mold. Some people think this brainless jelly looks like dog vomit. Others might say half-melted popcorn.

Yum!

Whatever you call it, know this:  It remembers.

The slime mold pulses, and grows, and moves. When it moves, it leaves behind a trail of goo.

An international team of scientists has been studying that trail by putting molds in mazes. They say the mold uses trails like an external memory: It avoids backtracking on its own snotty path as much as possible.

Because who wants to step in snot? Not me, not a slime mold!

The scientists say the trail helps the mold explore new environments. They also suggest that the organism's external memory may be the evolutionary forebear of internal memory. Like the one in human brains.

Now you know where we get the expression "poop for brains"! You're welcome.

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena, California. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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