Minimal Intelligence Lab (MINT Lab)

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Philosophy of plant neurobiology: the birth of a discipline

The last decade witnessed the origins of Plant Neurobiology as a new area of research, when the Society for Plant Neurobiology (later renamed Society of Plant Signaling and Behavior) <http://www.plantbehavior.org> was formed, and the journal Plant Signaling and Behavior began. According to Plant Physiology orthodoxy, action potentials (APs) are a nuisance. Plant physiology either ignores APs altogether (there is no single reference to APs in the Fifth edition of Lincoln Taiz's classic Plant Physiology, 2010), or considers APs as some kind of ‘error' or ‘blind alley' in plant evolution. By contrast, under the lens of Plant Neurobiology, APs play a central role in integrating the plant body via rapid electric signals. These are perfectly suited to provide an additional basis for plant-specific forms of learning and memory.

The Philosophy of Plant Neurobiology is the interdisciplinary study of plant intelligence, embracing the philosophy of science and plant electrophysiology, cell biology, molecular biology, and ecology, among other disciplines. Older analytic or mechanistic models have now been superseded in this emerging field by organic, non-reductionist explanatory programs that aim to combine decomposition techniques with an integrated, system-level, ecological perspective. The result is the interdisciplinary take on the philosophical and scientific study of plant signaling and adaptive behavior.

The philosophy of science interfaces with plant neurobiology in a number of related areas. First, notions central to the philosophy of science such as scientific explanation and intertheoretic reduction are to be applied to the field of plant neurobiology. Likewise, empirical results from plant neurobiology bear directly upon the quest for intelligence; our understanding of cognition, behavior and perception; learning, memory, decision-making, etc.; and even consciousness and the discussion of free will.

At present, no programs or courses in the Philosophy of Plant Neurobiology have been instituted in any university. MINT Lab aims to foster more frequent collaboration between philosophers of cognitive science and plant scientists in order to fill the need for integration.

Sample literature

  • Brenner, Eric D., Rainer Stahlberg, Stefano Mancuso, Jorge M. Vivanco, František Baluška and Elizabeth van Volkenburgh. "Plant Neurobiology: an Integrated View of Plant Signaling." Trends in Plant Science 11, no. 8 (2006): 413–419.
  • Baluška, František, Stefano Mancuso, Dieter Volkmann and Peter W. Barlow. "Root Apex Transition Zone: A Signalling–response Nexus in the Root". Trends in Plant Science 15 (2010): 402–408.
  • Baluška, František, Stefano Mancuso. Root apex transition zone as oscillatory zone. Frontiers in Plant Sciences 4 (2013): 354
  • Calvo, Paco, and Fred Keijzer. "Plants: Adaptive Behavior, Root Brains and Minimal Cognition." Adaptive Behavior 19 (2011): 155–171.
  • Calvo, Paco, Emma Martín and John Symons. The emergence of systematicity in minimally cognitive agents. In Calvo and Symons (eds.) (2014) The architecture of cognition: Rethinking Fodor and Pylyshyn's Systematicity Challenge. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Carello, C., Vaz, D., Blau, J. J. C., & Petrusz, S. C. Unnerving intelligence. Ecological Psychology, 24 (2012): 241–264.
  • Lee, D. N. (1998) Guiding movement by coupling taus. Ecological Psychology, 10, 221-250.
  • Lee, D. N. (2009). General Tau Theory: evolution to date. Special Issue: Landmarks in Perception. Perception, 38, 837-858.
  • Masi, Elisa, Marzena Ciszak, G. Stefano, Luciana Renna, Elisa Azzarello, Camila Pandolfi et al. "Spatio-temporal Dynamics of the Electrical Network Activity in the Root Apex." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106 (2009): 4048–4053.
  • Trewavas, Anthony J. "Aspects of Plant Intelligence." Annals of Botany 92 (2003): 1–20.