Can a single cell “change its mind”?

In an effort to replicate an experiment conducted over a century ago, systems biologists at Harvard Medical School present compelling evidence confirming at least one single-cell organism—the strikingly trumpet-shaped Stentor roeselii—exhibits a hierarchy of avoidance behaviors.

Exposed repeatedly to the same stimulation—in this case a pulse of irritating particles—the organism can in effect “change its mind” about how to respond, the authors said, indicating a capacity for relatively complex decision-making processes.

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Stentor footage courtesy: James Weiss (, Bill Porter
Additional footage courtesy: Megason lab, Kirchhausen lab.

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