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Data from: Habituation in non-neural organisms: evidence from slime moulds

Cite this dataset

Boisseau, Romain P.; Vogel, David; Dussutour, Audrey (2016). Data from: Habituation in non-neural organisms: evidence from slime moulds [Dataset]. Dryad.


Learning, defined as a change in behaviour evoked by experience, has hitherto been investigated almost exclusively in multicellular neural organisms. Evidence for learning in non-neural multicellular organisms is scant and only a few unequivocal reports of learning have been described in single celled organisms. Here we demonstrate habituation, an unmistakable form of learning, in the non-neural organism Physarum polycephalum. In our experiment, using chemotaxis as the behavioural output and quinine or caffeine as the stimulus, we showed that P. polycephalum learnt to ignore quinine or caffeine when the stimuli were repeated, but responded again when the stimulus was withheld for a certain time. Our results meet the principle criteria that have been used to demonstrate habituation: responsiveness decline and spontaneous recovery. To distinguish habituation from sensory adaptation or motor fatigue, we also show stimulus specificity. Our results point to the diversity of organisms lacking neurons, which likely display a hitherto unrecognized capacity for learning, and suggest that slime moulds may be an ideal model system in which to investigate fundamental mechanisms underlying learning processes. Besides, documenting learning in non-neural organisms such as slime moulds is centrally important to a comprehensive, phylogenetic understanding of when and where in the tree of life the earliest manifestations of learning evolved.

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