By: April Carson
The electrical activity patterns produced by fungi have been discovered in a new research. Furthermore, the activities appear to be comparable to human speech structures.
In order to study the electrical activity of fungi, the researchers placed electrodes around the cells of the fungi. They then recorded and analyzed the resulting data.
It's a discovery that might yield fresh light on fungi communication based on the concept that impulses may be affecting other cellular activities in the network of fungus.
This is not the first time that electrical activity in fungi has been observed. However, this particular study appears to be the first to suggest that the impulses may be functioning in a way that is analogous to human speech.
Andrew Adamatzky, a computer scientist at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, was able to identify up to 50 distinct "words" or clusters of spikes in activity produced by the fungus networks he investigated.
For years, people have noted electrical buzzing in fungi, but interpreting this activity as a language may lead to many things we don't know about what this fungus behavior signifies.
"Assuming that fungi utilize spikes of electrical activity to communicate and process information in mycelium networks, we organize spikes into words and give a linguistic and information complexity analysis of the fungal spiking activity," Adamatzky explains in his new study.
Dr. Alexandra Nizet looked at electrical activity in four species of fungus, including ghost fungi (Omphalotus nidiformis), Enoki mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes), split gill fungi (Schizophyllum commune), and caterpillar fungi (Cordyceps militaris).
The researchers then examined the brains of the mice using microelectrodes inserted into regions where the fungus had grown. Activity spikes were organized into groups, and electrical activity was recorded and detected with tiny microelectrodes placed throughout areas where the fungus had infected. Some spikes persisted for up to 21 hours.
"We don't know if there's a link between fungus spikes and human language," Adamatzky told the Guardian. "The most complex 'sentences' in split gill mushrooms were composed of six spike groups, but overall the average fungal word length of 5.97 – measured by spike groups – was comparable to languages like English (4.8) and Russian (6). "There is no evidence that words or phrases are represented in any meaningful way inside fungi. Perhaps not. There are several similarities in information processing in living substrates of different categories, families, and species, however. I was simply interested to see how they compared."
Although the fungus network's behaviors bear resemblance to those of humans, there is no mention in the study as to what it communicates or why these creatures need to stay in touch over a larger region.
There aren't many possibilities that spring to mind when it comes to fungi. These signals are conceivable ways in which mushrooms may warn about threats to their survival or a change in available resources, for example.
Dan Bebber, an ecologist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom who wasn't involved with the research, suggests that there is still a long way to go before we can be certain that fungi are communicating with each other.
"This is a tantalizing first step, but we know so little about how these organisms communicate that it's hard to speculate what importance this might have," Bebber says.
It's also unclear whether the behavior is exclusive to this species of fungi or if other types of fungi use similar methods to communicate. If the latter is true, it would mean that fungi might be one of the most widespread sources of nonhuman speech on Earth.
For now, the researchers are continuing to investigate this potential mode of communication by studying other species of fungi. They also hope to use machine learning to tease apart the different sounds that the fungi make and to see if there is any meaning behind them.
"Though compelling, the usage of fungi as a language appears excessive, and further study and testing of crucial hypotheses would be required before we can see fungus on Google Translate," Bebber told the Guardian.
The study has been published in Royal Society Open Science.
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About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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