Electrical experiments with plants that count and communicate | Greg Gage


I’m a neuroscientist, and I’m the co-founder of Backyard Brains, and our mission is to train
the next generation of neuroscientists by taking graduate-level
neuroscience research equipment and making it available for kids
in middle schools and high schools. And so when we go into the classroom, one way to get them thinking
about the brain, which is very complex, is to ask them a very simple
question about neuroscience, and that is, “What has a brain?” When we ask that, students will instantly tell you
that their cat or dog has a brain, and most will say that a mouse
or even a small insect has a brain, but almost nobody says
that a plant or a tree or a shrub has a brain. And so when you push — because this could actually
help describe a little bit how the brain actually functions — so you push and say, “Well, what is it that makes
living things have brains versus not?” And often they’ll come back
with the classification that things that move tend to have brains. And that’s absolutely correct. Our nervous system evolved
because it is electrical. It’s fast, so we can quickly respond
to stimuli in the world and move if we need to. But you can go back
and push back on a student, and say, “Well, you know,
you say that plants don’t have brains, but plants do move.” Anyone who has grown a plant has noticed that the plant will move and face the sun. But they’ll say,
“But that’s a slow movement. You know, that doesn’t count.
That could be a chemical process.” But what about fast-moving plants? Now, in 1760, Arthur Dobbs,
the Royal Governor of North Carolina, made a pretty fascinating discovery. In the swamps behind his house, he found a plant that would spring shut every time a bug would fall in between it. He called this plant the flytrap, and within a decade,
it made its way over to Europe, where eventually the great Charles Darwin
got to study this plant, and this plant absolutely blew him away. He called it the most wonderful
plant in the world. This is a plant
that was an evolutionary wonder. This is a plant that moves quickly, which is rare, and it’s carnivorous, which is also rare. And this is in the same plant. But I’m here today to tell you that’s not even the coolest thing
about this plant. The coolest thing
is that the plant can count. So in order to show that, we have to get some vocabulary
out of the way. So I’m going to do what we do
in the classroom with students. We’re going to do
an experiment on electrophysiology, which is the recording
of the body’s electrical signal, either coming from neurons
or from muscles. And I’m putting some electrodes
here on my wrists. As I hook them up, we’re going to be able to see a signal on the screen here. And this signal may be familiar to you. It’s called the EKG,
or the electrocardiogram. And this is coming
from neurons in my heart that are firing
what’s called action potentials, potential meaning voltage and action
meaning it moves quickly up and down, which causes my heart to fire, which then causes
the signal that you see here. And so I want you to remember the shape
of what we’ll be looking at right here, because this is going to be important. This is a way that the brain
encodes information in the form of an action potential. So now let’s turn to some plants. So I’m going to first
introduce you to the mimosa, not the drink, but the Mimosa pudica, and this is a plant that’s found
in Central America and South America, and it has behaviors. And the first behavior
I’m going to show you is if I touch the leaves here, you get to see that the leaves
tend to curl up. And then the second behavior is, if I tap the leaf, the entire branch seems to fall down. So why does it do that? It’s not really known to science. One of the reasons why
could be that it scares away insects or it looks less appealing to herbivores. But how does it do that?
Now, that’s interesting. We can do an experiment to find out. So what we’re going to do now, just like I recorded
the electrical potential from my body, we’re going to record the electrical
potential from this plant, this mimosa. And so what we’re going to do
is I’ve got a wire wrapped around the stem, and I’ve got the ground electrode where? In the ground. It’s an electrical
engineering joke. Alright. (Laughter) Alright. So I’m going to go ahead
and tap the leaf here, and I want you to look
at the electrical recording that we’re going to see inside the plant. Whoa. It is so big,
I’ve got to scale it down. Alright. So what is that? That is an action potential
that is happening inside the plant. Why was it happening? Because it wanted to move. Right? And so when I hit the touch receptors, it sent a voltage all the way down
to the end of the stem, which caused it to move. And now, in our arms,
we would move our muscles, but the plant doesn’t have muscles. What it has is water inside the cells and when the voltage hits it,
it opens up, releases the water, changes the shape of the cells,
and the leaf falls. OK. So here we see an action potential
encoding information to move. Alright? But can it do more? So let’s go to find out. We’re going to go to our good friend,
the Venus flytrap here, and we’re going to take a look
at what happens inside the leaf when a fly lands on here. So I’m going to pretend
to be a fly right now. And now here’s my Venus flytrap, and inside the leaf,
you’re going to notice that there are three little hairs here,
and those are trigger hairs. And so when a fly lands — I’m going to touch
one of the hairs right now. Ready? One, two, three. What do we get? We get
a beautiful action potential. However, the flytrap doesn’t close. And to understand why that is, we need to know a little bit more
about the behavior of the flytrap. Number one is that it takes
a long time to open the traps back up — you know, about 24 to 48 hours
if there’s no fly inside of it. And so it takes a lot of energy. And two, it doesn’t need to eat
that many flies throughout the year. Only a handful. It gets
most of its energy from the sun. It’s just trying to replace
some nutrients in the ground with flies. And the third thing is, it only opens then closes the traps
a handful of times until that trap dies. So therefore, it wants
to make really darn sure that there’s a meal inside of it
before the flytrap snaps shut. So how does it do that? It counts the number of seconds between successive
touching of those hairs. And so the idea is
that there’s a high probability, if there’s a fly inside of there,
they’re going to be quick together, and so when it gets the first
action potential, it starts counting, one, two, and if it gets to 20
and it doesn’t fire again, then it’s not going to close, but if it does it within there,
then the flytrap will close. So we’re going to go back now. I’m going to touch
the Venus flytrap again. I’ve been talking
for more than 20 seconds. So we can see what happens
when I touch the hair a second time. So what do we get?
We get a second action potential, but again, the leaf doesn’t close. So now if I go back in there and if I’m a fly moving around, I’m going to be touching
the leaf a few times. I’m going to go and brush it a few times. And immediately, the flytrap closes. So here we are seeing the flytrap
actually doing a computation. It’s determining
if there’s a fly inside the trap, and then it closes. So let’s go back to our original question. Do plants have brains? Well, the answer is no. There’s no brains in here. There’s no axons, no neurons. It doesn’t get depressed. It doesn’t want to know
what the Tigers’ score is. It doesn’t have
self-actualization problems. But what it does have
is something that’s very similar to us, which is the ability
to communicate using electricity. It just uses slightly
different ions than we do, but it’s actually doing the same thing. So just to show you the ubiquitous nature
of these action potentials, we saw it in the Venus flytrap, we’ve seen an action
potential in the mimosa. We’ve even seen
an action potential in a human. Now, this is the euro of the brain. It’s the way that all
information is passed. And so what we can do
is we can use those action potentials to pass information between species of plants. And so this is our interspecies
plant-to-plant communicator, and what we’ve done
is we’ve created a brand new experiment where we’re going to record
the action potential from a Venus flytrap, and we’re going to send it
into the sensitive mimosa. So I want you to recall what happens when we touch the leaves of the mimosa. It has touch receptors
that are sending that information back down in the form
of an action potential. And so what would happen if we took the action potential
from the Venus flytrap and sent it into
all the stems of the mimosa? We should be able to create
the behavior of the mimosas without actually touching it ourselves. And so if you’ll allow me, I’m going to go ahead
and trigger this mimosa right now by touching on the hairs
of the Venus flytrap. So we’re going to send information
about touch from one plant to another. So there you see it. So — (Applause) So I hope you learned a little bit,
something about plants today, and not only that. You learned that plants could be used
to help teach neuroscience and bring along the neurorevolution. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “Electrical experiments with plants that count and communicate | Greg Gage”

  1. Sometimes I take a paper clip in the bathroom with me, insert it about 2.5 inches into my erect peepee, and then carefully insert the other end into the electrical socket in the bathroom. Its the only way I can "finish" anymore. Blows the breaker everytime and I wake up in a darl bathroom.

  2. Very cool! Plus I learned a new homonym today called action potential in plants and their receptivity of voltage

  3. Ducking hate plants. They are so stupid I kill ever plant when I get the chance. I love summer cause I can light them all on fire. I paid good money just to get a fire place put in so I can burn trees all damn day with a smile on my face. Love the smell of a freshly killed pine.

  4. How rude of this human to think that a plant has no brain and yet his experiment suggests it can think about its actions. Egocentric humans uncapable of transforming into another dimension beyond what they can understand. This is why so many are trapped on this Earth, this amazing ball of energy. He is proud of himself of giving dominion over everything else, all the while seeking AI and science to understand how things work… lol, ok guy. Ask an acient tree how it has stood the test of time?

  5. In India people pluck leaves of certainly plants without rendering any thing or just without any I'll thoughts so that the medicinal potency of the leaves or flowers don't get affected when converted into syrup form..ayurveda tells so and it's done from time immemorial continued till today..ancients ayurvedic texts also says plants have electric communication.

  6. Hlo sir i really appriciate your work . can you tell me why sea sponge is living organism even they do not have nervous system?

  7. I did this with seeds , and the you won’t amount to nothing,didn’t grow. The seed exact same pkg as other seeds ,I said your beautiful,you will grow big ,and strong , all beside each other. The positive words ,thoughts ,emotions,all grew , and the ones I had negative thoughts,didn’t grow at all . All the same water amount,container size . So it was fair . I’ve done this with seeds , foods , labels on rice , and our thoughts affect every living thing.
    So our every thought,it’s reaction,were attracting everything that comes our way . It’s incredible.
    I saw a beautiful experiment yrs ago ,and 4 plants 🌱 🌱 🌱 🌱, put into a shoe box ,two on each side , the same plant , one plant was told ,I’m going to hurt you , cut you , and cut off your leaf , the camera caught,the plant communicating with the other plants 🌱, and the camera captures a signal,ie:
    . . . . Telling the other 3 danger was near ,and they mimicked . . . . Right back to the 🌱 plant that warned them with the same code ,and the colour was clear , but it was brilliant.

  8. And all of these stupid comments.
    How does any true Science get done?
    It can't be electrical signals but it can be electromagnetic signals.

  9. So the earth have brain too???
    I thot it was just a spaceship 🚀 in this galaxy but if have brain can earth communicate with us???

  10. Why isn’t this guy giving credit to those that actually found this their their experiments. He’s replicating.

  11. If I remember correctly, per indian history mr jadeesh chandra bose has already proved this in late 1890s, these westerners has just theft it and now samelessly showcasing it and didn't even consider mention his name.. So cheap western mentality even today's world….

  12. the brain is only a machine that controls the body consciousness is the computer that controls the soul and the web that connects all things in the universe all things have there own consciousness but only animals have brains the consciousness is immortal and is before and after it takes place to control a brain we are all a part of a much larger being some call it god some call it the universe or the light it really don't matter just understand we though are independent are also much more

  13. 🌎COMFORTERS MERCI SEAT OF KINGDOM OF GOD of God's . Know raval the eternal future sense future tense fulfilling the fullness of mind with eternal be time Gentile gift blessing Jew skin of a map ww2 spiritual ending to the past Hitler as anti Jew or Christ king of the Jews is so very recestt y do u say it like it's a bad thing ? BRAINWASHING IS Y

  14. Normal anew is " Know Thyself " and "To thyne own self be true " REVELATION 21 :8 I as what you should anticipate so drop out after 8th grade little later e. . . Young adults see be AND REFUSE UNTILL CONSTIT U TIONAL MAKE THE ESTABLISHMENT HOLD ITSELF CAPTIVE TO THE FULFILLMENT OF. CONSTITUTIONAL RELIVANCE OF PROVIDING THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN THIS COUNTRY THE PROMISE OF MELITA . BOYS SHOULD HAVE THE HIGH SCHOOL BOOT CAMP THAT THEY GRADUATE YOUNG MENFOR THE NECT 9 MILLION YEARS .THIS IS WHAT KEEPS POLITICIANS HONEST AND PUT THE FEAR OF GOD IN THEM , WHAT OUR MEN NEED NEW MEN IN CHRIST TO BE FORGIVEN THEN SUPER PEARLY WHITES UNTO THRONE ITS B SELF . . . ONLY GOD KNOWS WHO THAT IS JESUS JESUS JESUS .AMEN

  15. PROTEST . . QUIT SCHOOL AFTER JR HIGH LET NO HIGH SCHOOLERS GO TO SCHOOL. . STAND DOWN TILL WE ACKNOWLEDGE AND RESPECT WHAT WERE FOING IS ON THE SAME PAGE MATT 5:41

  16. From the rock of ages Neons leading the way and moving by the spirit cromimn no and carbon keys that have unseen dominan in the established Kingdom 1968 s future sense and does not war with what already is . New Heaven and Earth Rock of AGES. Heaven is scrolled up and it's foundation of firmament is melted element as it is written is as said by way of God SAID OUR AMERICAN GODDESS HEAD SAIDS STEAD COMFORTERS MERCI SPEAT SENT TO ORDAIN YOULL REQUIRE PERMISSION TO SO MUCH AS HAVE A THOUGHT REGARDING THIS ! LISA R CITIZEN KINGDOM OF GOD THEN U S A

  17. Cont. IN CHRIST JESIS HOLY NAME ABOVE EVERYTHING AND ALL NAMES CROWN OF. GLORY TO THE AMETICAN EVER BEGINNING BE NEVER ENDING STORY . THE PJASE PAST CONCLUDED AT LAST . THE END

  18. I hold all every instance and individual experience as captive to the letter and or number as well as the absolute truth as an American foundation of our WAY in life . Christ in me has set the spirit world free and thank it to be beneeth we same as me be n jes u s name unto the father and holy spirit AMEN

  19. Now plants are the neurons of this whole earth, that's why the earth is alive as one huge organism, housing an entire ecosystem of ticks and lice that are made up of humans. Sad. Maybe we were not meant to be here.

  20. He is copying the experiment of Acharya J C Bose and doesn’t even mention his name!!! That is like the ultimate plagiarism ever.

  21. Electrical. Technically energy. Plants' reaction is seen with wires connected. Humans with another human need not touch. We just need to manipulate energy to succeed information transfer.
    Existential reality.

  22. Creo que es algo más complejo,pues había una planta grande en un jardín por donde Vivo,la cuidaba una señora y la planta era verde y llena de vida,pero cuando la señora murio,la planta se volvió de un color cafe oscuro..se seco,.. como si supiera que su cuidadora había fallecido.
    También hay otro experimento donde se mide la reacción de un científico que va a cortar el tallo de una planta y ve las reacciones eletricas de la planta Antes y después del corte, parece que si tienen cerebro

  23. Thanks for posting. I wonder how a psychologist would annualize the people who gave this excellent presentation the thumb down ?

  24. Vegan: Don't hurt animals.
    Non-Vegan: Don't hurt Plants.

    Me: CONFUSED😞😓!!!!!!!
    Sol: Let's just start fasting till death.

  25. Now all the meat eaters can feel even more guilty for eating the animals that are fed all these plants!!!
    Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

  26. I remember when I was a kid my father would tell me, plants can hear us. That explains why he sometimes talk to them. By the way, he is an Agriculturist.

  27. Green monsters. Right now they are planning a sexual attack in the spring. Nasal rape goes up our noses all over our cars. Makes us sick to where we can’t breath they hide and wait all winter when we are least paying attention to them, they hide there leaves and look so frail and weak and everyone feels sorry fo r them out there in the cold all alone, and then BOOM 💥! Gametes everywhere! Causing addictions to Afrin and all those other Claritin ect. They are no friends enemies if they could walk they would crush us like the Ents of Old, treacherous and deceptive creatures …This proves it science shows they know what they are doing and have covertly operated to wound us slowly so as not to draw complete attention to where one would act against an aggressive enemy. Passive aggressive green monsters all around the south east United States. Giving us the molds and the lichens spores to clog up our breathing causing infection. Everyone go eat a 🥗 you gotta fight the powers that be.

  28. That's why the Saint Tukaram said via his grantha – Tukaram Gatha " वृक्ष वल्ली आम्हा सोयरे" means the plants, trees are all our relatives.
    And it was said 400years ago.

  29. "But it's a slow movement, that could be a chemical process." really made me laugh. We could in essence be moving really slowly to trees.

  30. In the 60's, Cleve Backster had already proven that plants feel everything… even human thoughts… and they react like humans do… with fear, with joy… etc…

  31. We should be asking the students if they think (or possibly even know) if their consciousness precedes their birth and/or survives it. Let's get them thinking on a much higher level than just the mechanics of biology.

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