How Can We Hack Into a Plant's Brain?
Tom Spendlove posted on October 20, 2017 |
Greg Gage demonstrates experiments to understand how a plant's "brain" works.

Greg Gage is continuing his work to use education to bring about the neurorevolution. Gage is motivated by two competing ideas - first that around one in five people will have a brain disorder during their lifetime, and second that he feels far too many people understand how the brain works. His TED Talk Electrical experiments with plants that count and communicate shows Greg using different plants to illustrate how our brain takes inputs and processes them into outputs.


Using electrodes connected to his own wrists, Gage demonstrates the electrocardiogram signal. This is his baseline to show us the shape of action potentials from encoded brain signals. He next demonstrates the mimosa pudica and its curling leaves and retracting branches. A wire wrapped around the stem shows that when Gage touches the leaves, the plant reacts and the leaves curl in.











Next is a Venus flytrap, and a similar demonstration showing how a flytrap senses and uses the information to decide whether or not a fly is present within the plant’s body. The flytrap is inputting information and also running an internal count before decided whether or not to close. Finally Gage demonstrates how different mechanisms might communicate by connecting the two species together and using inputs from one to control the other.

Greg Gage is an incredible speaker, able to communicate at a high level for talks like this one but also great at doing his grade school demonstrations. We’ve covered Gage several times at ENGINEERING.com – following his progress to teach the world more about our brains and inspire future generations of neuroscientists. For me the best part about his experiments are seeing the way that his strong engineering background allows him to build new instrumentation to perform innovative experiments. He might identify now as a neuroscientist but his engineering roots are solid.


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