The cognitive cell: bacterial behavior reconsidered

Front Microbiol. 2015 Apr 14;6:264. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2015.00264. eCollection 2015.


Research on how bacteria adapt to changing environments underlies the contemporary biological understanding of signal transduction (ST), and ST provides the foundation of the information-processing approach that is the hallmark of the 'cognitive revolution,' which began in the mid-20th century. Yet cognitive scientists largely remain oblivious to research into microbial behavior that might provide insights into problems in their own domains, while microbiologists seem equally unaware of the potential importance of their work to understanding cognitive capacities in multicellular organisms, including vertebrates. Evidence in bacteria for capacities encompassed by the concept of cognition is reviewed. Parallels exist not only at the heuristic level of functional analogue, but also at the level of molecular mechanism, evolution and ecology, which is where fruitful cross-fertilization among disciplines might be found.

Keywords: cognition; communication; evolution; information-processing; learning; memory; signal transduction; valence.

Publication types

  • Review