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Microbes Remember: Bacteria Have Collective Working Memory

Microbes Remember: Bacteria Have Collective Working Memory

University of California microbiologists believe a discovery has occurred in science. They managed to find parallels between simple organisms and complex neurons. And this indicates the basis of biological systems that support the collective working memory of bacteria or “biofilms”. A team of researchers found that bacterial cells, when exposed to light stimulation, remember the light exposure even several hours after exposure. Scientists were able to manipulate this process, creating, in the end, bacterial memory patterns.

This was unexpected and surprising since earlier science did not suggest a possible connection between the simplest unicellular organisms and complex neurons that process brain cells responsible for memory formation. This discovery provides new clues for studying the characteristics of the brain but in its simpler manifestations.


But if scientists can understand how something more complex, for example, a neuron, appeared, then they will have more chances to study the mechanism of interaction of bacteria and neurons. In fact, science now has a unique launching pad, which will soon develop unique basic computing systems with living organisms, such as bacteria.

Bacteria use ion channels to communicate with each other. It also allows them to store information about their past conditions. Researchers were able to encode complex memory patterns in bacterial biofilms. And they found out that the optical prints were stored for several hours after the initial stimulus, which led to a direct-controlled image with a resolution of one cell.

When changing the methods and frequency of light simulation, bacteria remembered and reacted to these moments in a completely different way. The ability to encode memory in working groups of bacteria may allow future biological calculations by capturing complex spatial memory patterns in biofilms.


At the same time, scientists pay attention to an important fact: bacteria and microbes are recognized as the dominant life form on our planet, and they have a kind of “chronicle” of events at the level of a single bacterial system.