Cellular memory, or body memory, is something Rubenfeld Synergists talk about quite a bit, though the idea is currently generally regarded as a pseudoscience.
However, a 2008 article in the journal Nature reveals that slime molds – organisms like amoebas which are unicellular, but have multiple nuclei – actually have remarkable memory and recall of their own. These creatures seem to learn and change their behavior based on an established pattern of stimuli.
When the amoeba Physarum polycephalum is subjected to a series of shocks at regular intervals, it learns the pattern and changes its behaviour in anticipation of the next one to come1, according to a team of researchers in Japan. Remarkably, this memory stays in the slime mould for hours, even when the shocks themselves stop. A single renewed shock after a ‘silent’ period will leave the mould expecting another to follow in the rhythm it learned previously. Toshiyuki Nakagaki of Hokkaido University in Sapporo and his colleagues say that their findings ‘hint at the cellular origins of primitive intelligence’.
This remarkable finding about an organism that has no nervous system implies interesting things about the capacity of a single cell to learn and remember, and may have implications for how more complex organisms – like us – store their experiences and respond to them even long after the stimulus that caused the original response is gone – i.e., trauma.
We’re still at the very beginning of even trying to understand how memory works, but it’s fascinating to see the clues that tiny organisms might hold.