Minimal cognition: brained or brainless biological intelligence

Start date: 9 June 2024
End date: 13 June 2024
Time: 9:00 am
Location: In-person at Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture, Erice, Sicily, Italy
Third-party event

The purpose of the Workshop is to look at model organisms as diverse as possible with the aim of unveiling a more comprehensive meaning of the concept of «cognition». Our motivation for this workshop stems from the need to examine cognitive evidence devoid of anthropocentric biases. We aim to focus on compelling evidence of intelligent behaviour in various organisms, ranging from insects to single-cell organisms, and extending to the potential for plant intelligence and cognition. Convincing evidence of intelligent behaviour is attested in a variety of organisms, from the pin-brained organisms provided by invertebrates such as insects to single celled organisms such as ciliate or protists up to the possibility of plant intelligence and cognition. Another focal point of the workshop is the role of synaptic plasticity in learning and memory, which is currently a prominent topic in neuroscience. We will revisit past studies on Pavlovian conditioning in organisms like Paramecium aurelia and planarians, reevaluating the association between nuclear mechanisms and long-term memory storage, which has implications for cognition in single-cell organisms. Studies of minimal cognition in brain and brainless organisms should be complemented by the study of the plasticity of dynamic morphogenesis of biological forms as revealed by regenerative biology and controlled chimerism. The development of synthetic living machines with behavioural capacity, offers new avenues for understanding the origins of cognition in all of possible forms of material implementations.