Jellyfish, without central brain, learn from past experience – Jammu Kashmir Latest News | Tourism


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New Delhi, September 24: Even without a central brain, jellyfish can learn from past experiences like humans, rats and flies, scientists reported for the first time in the journal Current Biology on September 22. They trained the Caribbean box jellyfish (Tripedalia cystophora) to learn to recognize and avoid obstacles. The study challenges previous assumptions that advanced learning requires a centralized brain and sheds light on the evolutionary roots of learning and memory.

No bigger than a fingernail, these simple-looking jellies have a complex visual system, with 24 eyes embedded in their bell-like bodies. Living in mangrove swamps, the animal uses its vision to navigate murky water and move around the roots of underwater trees to capture prey. Scientists demonstrated that jellies can acquire the ability to avoid obstacles through associative learning, a process through which organisms form mental associations between sensory stimuli and behaviors.

“Learning is the highest performance for the nervous system,” says first author Jan Bielecki of Kiel University, Germany. To successfully teach a jellyfish a new trick, he says, “it’s best to take advantage of its natural behavior, something that makes sense to the animal, so it can reach its full potential.”

The team designed a round tank with brown and white stripes to simulate the jellyfish’s natural habitat, with the brown stripes mimicking the mangrove roots visible in the distance. He observed the jellyfish in the tank for 7.5 minutes. Initially, jellies swam close to these distant visible bands and collided with them repeatedly. But by the end of the experiment, the jellies had increased their average distance from the wall by nearly 50%, quadrupled the number of successful pivots to avoid collisions, and halved their contact with the wall. The findings suggest that jellyfish can learn from experience through visual and mechanical stimuli.

“If you want to understand complex structures, it’s always good to start as simple as possible,” says senior author Anders Garm of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. “Looking at these relatively simple neural systems in jellyfish, we have a much greater chance of understanding all the details and how they come together to behave.”

The researchers then tried to identify the process underlying the jellyfish’s associative learning by isolating the visual sensory centers of an animal called Rhopalia. Each of these structures contains six eyes and produces pacemaker signals that control the jellyfish’s pulsating motion, which increases in frequency when the animal moves around obstacles.

The team showed moving gray bars to a stationary ropalium to mimic the animal’s attitude toward objects. The structure did not respond to the light brown stripes, so they were considered distant. However, when the researchers trained the ropelium with weak electrical stimulation as the rods approached, it began to produce obstacle-dodging signals in response to the light brown stripes. These electrical stimuli mimicked the mechanical stimuli of collision. The findings showed that a combination of visual and mechanical stimuli is necessary for associative learning in jellyfish and that the rhopalium functions as a learning center.

Next, the team plans to delve deeper into the cellular interactions of the jellyfish nervous system to isolate memory formation. They also plan to understand how the mechanical sensors in the bell work to paint a full picture of the animal’s associative learning.

“It’s surprising how fast these animals learn; This is almost the same speed that advanced animals are doing,” says Garm. “Even the simplest nervous system appears to be capable of advanced learning, and this is a process invented early in the evolution of nervous systems.” Very fundamental cellular mechanisms may form.”




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