A new study found that tiny worms With only 302 neurons, they are able to make complex decisionsas published by its authors in the journal “Published in Current Biology”.
Scientists have spent decades trying to answer the question of how an animal makes decisions, focusing on brain cells and connections that might be involved. In the new study they focused on a different approach, by analyzing behavior rather than neurons.
They were surprised to discover worms It can take into account multiple factors and choose between two different proceduresalthough there are only 302 neurons, compared to about 86 billion in humans.
The authors note that the findings have important implications for how researchers assess motivation and cognitive abilities in animals. it’s more, The study demonstrates that complex decision-making capabilities can be encoded in small biological and synthetic networks.
Our study shows that you can use a system as simple as a worm to study something complex, such as goal-oriented decision making. We also show that behavior can tell us a lot about how the brain workssays lead author Srikanth Chalasani, associate professor in the Laboratory of Molecular Neurobiology at the Salk Institute.
“Even the simplest systems, like worms, have different strategies and can choose from among them, deciding which one best suits them in a given situation,” he adds. It provides a framework for understanding how these decisions are made. In more complex systems, such as humans.
Learning from worms
Whether eating prey or defending its food source, The predatory worm Pristionchus pacificus relies on biting. The challenge for the team was to determine the worm’s intentions when it was bitten.
The researchers found that `P. pacificus’ chooses between two feeding strategies to bite its prey and its competitor, another worm called Caenorhabditis elegans. On the other hand, there is a predatory strategy, the goal of which when biting is to kill the prey., and on the other hand the regional strategy, where the sting is used instead to force ‘C. elegans to stay away from the food source.
s. pacificus ‘predatory strategy against C. elegans’ larvae, which are easy to kill. Instead, p. PacificosChoose the regional strategy against the ‘C. elegans, which is hard to kill and outgrow ‘P. Pacificos to get food.
For the team, it looked like The ‘P pacificus’ costs and benefits are multiple potential outcomes From did, behavior familiar in vertebrates but unexpected in worms.
Scientists have always assumed that worms are simple: cchicken ‘P. pacificus bites, we think they always do so with one predator purpose says first author Kathleen Koach, a postdoctoral fellow in the Challasani Lab.
“It is actually quite versatile and can use the same action, biting ‘C. elegans, to achieve different long-term goals. I was surprised to discover that ‘P. pacificus’ It could take advantage of what seemed to be a failed predation To turn them into successful and goal-oriented regional areas.”
In the future, scientists aim to identify What are the cost-benefit calculations for ‘P. pacificus, scheduled or flexible.’ They hope that further research like this will help reveal the molecular underpinnings of the decision-making process.
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