Royal Society Publishing

Properties of a Mass of Cells Capable of Regenerating Pulses

R. L. Beurle


Cells having some properties similar to those of neurons are considered. A mass of such cells, randomly placed together with a uniform volume density, appears capable of supporting various simple forms of activity, including plane waves, spherical and circular waves and vortex effects. The propagation of a plane wave of activity has been considered in some detail. It is shown that a wave may be initiated in a mass of such cells by a number of individual stimuli. The mass has a very sensitive threshold to such stimulation. This threshold depends on cell properties, and by altering the threshold a mass of cells may be made to act as an on/off switch. The switching of waves may be compared with the shifting of attention in a living organism. Particularly interesting phenomena emerge if some property of the individual cells, e.g. size, extent of axon or dendrite structure, or threshold, changes with repeated use. The mass of cells may then exhibit an ability to modify its response according to past experience in a manner similar to that of living organisms. Trial and error learning, conditioned responses, and the ability to regenerate internally a sequence of past events may be demonstrated with very little complication of the form of the mass of cells.

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