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. He hasn't studied the effect long enough but plants have brains, they, think, communicate and have awareness and senses.
    They think with their whole body much like everything else but they lack specialized cells for it.
    Plants though do move quite fast take your plant needs to be tall and move it to the right or left of the window, the stems will be leaning to the side after a couple of hours.

  2. I once connected an EKG ( I think lead 1 only ) to read any electrical activity off a street plant … I never recieved a reading until i went to cut the plant i recieved a wave kind of like Torsade de Point but more spiky at the middle. I showed my paramedic buddies and half of them where astonished and the other half laughed told me thats imposibble and told me i was mocking them with a trick.

    I highly belive they sence when there about to die …so if they feel this they must feel other things

    things we are to young in evolution to understand

    or get an accurate reading or comunication

    and plants have been here wayyy longer than humans
    so i could speculate they could have a locked ability

    other than oxigenating the earth

  3. Venus fly trap: is there a fly in my mouth ?

    Greg Gage : Yes

    Venus fly trap : lol ok (CLOSES IT'S MOUTH)

    Greg Gage: BAMBOOZLED

  4. Even if someone else had sold to the same I want to say this to that in the future if alone Musk he's selling us the link that is to communicate basically with the brain to other brains the best way to teach people about what to educate and do is by showing this video or teaching based on this video

  5. we muslims already know these facts become it has mentioned in the Quran 1400 hundreds years ago. that trees do speak and communicate. even the stones Quran says is talking but Allah said we human beings won't understand thier language.

  6. Ten years ago while I was preparing to go work an emergency weather alert came on our local station warning of a fast moving, strong, storm system entering the city.While observing the map and speed/direction of travel I realized I only had minutes to seek shelter in the basement. After grabbing the radio I ran towards the stairs and began to hear the wind and felt its pressure effects on the house i.e. a groaning of the timbers and screeching of nails being pulled apart. The sounds increased rapidly in volume and by the time I reached the bottom of the stair case I covered my ears lest they be damaged by the intensity. Looking out of a basement window i saw the very large old pear tree racking and twisting in the intense wind shear and heard an almost indescribable sound. Like a scream. To me it sounded as if the trees were screaming as their limbs were being ripped from their trunks! As suddenly as the storm came upon us it disappeared. It was moving 70+ mph. I could have left the radio because the electric lines and poles were destroyed as well as trees and branches everywhere. Still, I remember that eerie haunting and intense "screaming"of the trees to this day.

  7. In Yucatán. The mayan healers ask kindly to the plant to share its medicine. After a yes response (they always say yes since is the work God gave them to do), they collect the leaves or branches or the root. they say "Plants are kind, and if you take the root, don't forget to plant the seeds of the plant in the same place". ANcient cultures were wise. The big corporations have only produced greedy, dumb, and money hungry people. You should also check this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un2yBgIAxYs

  8. Totally amazing! Really enjoyed this presentation about plants. They have their own, magnificent intelligence that they radiate, we’re learning and discovering so much from them everyday. Talk to them, care for them and send them your heart’s good energy, and in return, they will release their oxygen that we humans need to survive. Keep up the good work.🌿🌺

  9. Where to find Venus flytrap. I order seeds form AliExpress,Amazon and flipkart… every time I get disappointed they send false species…..only thing I get right is a mimosa pudica… Still need Venus flytrap and pitcher plant and drosera…
    Please help.

    [email protected]
    Address: 11/741 mohan Nagar DURG Chattisgarh India 491001

    I can/will pay for them.
    Or send me a link to buy real ones

  10. This plant is known in Brazil by the names:
    Dormideira(literally means SLEEPER)
    Não me toque(Don't Touch Me)
    Dorme Maria(Sleep Mary)
    and Mimosa.

  11. Sooo weak, two lies in the title. Experiencing time IS NOT counting, and couting IS SOMETHING DIFFERENT than experiencing time. Second lie is that those plants don't communicate, you put a wires around them, so it's totally normal that they react for electrical shock (if they react to touch) no matter if the signal is produced by a battery or other plant.
    Does falling egg counts the time so it knows exactly when to break when touching the floor? Or does it communicate maybe with the floor when it touches it? This is why so many people don't treat science seriously, cause many scientists think other people have inteligence of 5 yo, and by doing such silly "discoveries" waiting for applause.
    Clickbait title, wasted 10 min of my life.

  12. I wonder when mainstream science is going to acknowledge that consciousness exists independently of a brain and imbues all of matter?

  13. There's no such thing as external stimulus because everything is connected electro magnetically. There is no such thing as separateness at all, not in this universe because all experience is mutually exclusive. If there were no eyes the Sun would not be light, because existence is relationship, electro magnetic relationship. What we call the internal world and external world are one in the same experience! Much love ❤️

  14. put the genome of mimosa plants in big trees so we got mechanical movement and extract energy from compression and decompressing of this

  15. Hold on so TECHNICALLY the Venus fly trap isn’t necessarily a full producer… it’s a consumer and a producer at the same time. Therefore the only thing that can’t be placed in either producer consumer or decomposer isn’t just a virus. TAKE THAT SCIENCE!!!

  16. Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose invented this (& much more about plants) more than a hundred years ago.
    Here is a nice documentary about his life and amazing works
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ImqC7O0oCg

  17. OUIoui E shigoto Mies Amies ROCK ISLAND ICI AMERICA add EXPANSION solutions Ecomomic LINK BRAINs in the BACK round ? BRANCH people move have Brains GAGNON move create future 100%. ? LOOK LIGHT speed of? LIGHT 💡 100% proving thier IS a BRAIN 100% LOOK 👀 Speed Connectected Space 100%. LOOK space around IT Tesla EXPOSED energy FIELD that IS THOUGH of many Things SO give ME MY SCIENCE 🧬 AWARD 🥇 Lets CREATE Future. I have a Japanies MAPLE Tree GREW around POWER LINE TO AVOID DANGER TRUE SEncory Their IS a BRAIN Called survival UNIQUE FASHION 100%. PLant moves Past history more was comming THREW as ARMIE so IT able to RECORD DNA 🧬 PLANT 🌱 to protect EVAN TRESS leaves ALL TURN when rain coming 100% TRESS TALK its Moister static 100%. HUMANS are electronic .

  18. Most plants have a small central nerve cluster at the base of the plant, and above the roots, it’s called the “root brain.” Eww vegans eat plant brains!

  19. The finest tea with the least tannic acid is picked by moving swiftly along lines of tea plants and plucking just a few leaves from near the top of the plant and moving on to the next plant, this is because the tea plant produces a neurotoxin, tannic acid, that gives any animal a nasty uncomfortable and vulnerable feeling in its gut, and when one tea plant is 'attacked' by any foraging animal, it produces lots of tannic acid to make the meal much less appetising, that process being designed to then produce an unpleasant memory in any animal to discourage further foraging, and when that happens, the tea plant that is being attacked then signals all the other tea plants in the vicinity to also ramp up their production of this self-defense chemical to discourage any further foraging by the 'predator'. That is why improperly-harvested tea has such a high tannic acid content and gives a lousy nauseous feeling in the guts and a headachy feeling.

    Plants have chakras too, so some mental faculties will be held in those, and of course, according to vedic understanding, all plants have living souls and are conscious living entities and are even capable of communicating their feelings some say even to human beings through the psychic and spiritual atmosphere, which is a very conscious experience to many people around the world.

    Professor Jagadish Chandra Bose also demonstrated how some plant seedlings could apparently end up having more mineral content in them and their growing medium than they had before sprouting in sealed containers designed not to allow the ingress of any additional mineral content from any source. When he opened the containers and measured the total mineral content of the newly-sprouted seedlings and the growing medium itself, the plant seedlings had mysteriously managed to acquire, in the case of some particular minerals measured, several times the initial amount of those minerals present in the total volume of matter in each sealed container, including the matter of the seeds themselves, with the extra mineral content seemingly having come from nowhere, likely in a very similar manner to the Indian yogis who can apparently live without food or water for many years, with one such yogi having been tested by the India military to better understand his yogic technique with a view to teaching that ability to special forces soldiers. However, that particular outcome may have depended on the particular species of plant seedlings that Jagadish Bose used, and also the spiritual atmosphere in which he conducted those experiments as a devout Hindu, thinking of the Chinese psychic who can cause seeds to germinate and achieve days of growth rate in just minutes with pranic, or chi energy donated to the seedlings.

    'Prahlad Jani, an 83-year-old Indian yogi, is making headlines by claims that for the past 70 years he has had nothing to eat and not one drop of liquid to drink. … The yogi himself says that the goddess “Amba” showed him a hole in his mouth, through which he received holy energy.'

    'Chulin Sun is a woman with exceptional powers (Shen and Sun, 1996, 1998; Sun, 1998). A member of the Chinese Somatic Science Research Institute, she is a practitioner of Waiqi. Waiqi is a type of qigong that teaches the practitioner to bring the qi energy of traditional Chinese medicine under the control of the mind. Chulin Sun can induce plant seeds to grow shoots and roots several cm long within 20 min using mentally projected qi energy (Fig. 1). This has been demonstrated on more than 180 different occasions at universities as well as science and research institutions in China (including Taiwan and Hong Kong) as well as other countries (e.g., Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, etc.) (Ge et al., 1998; Qin et al., 1998; Lee et al., 1999). We took part in and repeated the qi germination experiments seven times, and five of them succeeded (Ge et al., 1998). This remarkable effect on seed development has drawn widespread attention (Tompkins and Bird, 1973; Lee, 1998), but the biological mechanisms that underlie this phenomenon are unknown.'

  20. It has been already revealed 1400 years ago in the Qur'an through prophet Mohammed PBUH that plants have life and other great info. Read the Qur'an and you'll be surprised if you have no hate

  21. What's the other plant's name? I saw it on vacation a while ago and forgot what the guy said it was. Been searching for it for a while, it fascinates me !

  22. Don’t have to shock them. They will communicate all on their own. Smarter than humans. Electro shock tortured cause you didn’t think to ask them outright …..

  23. omg stop with evolution, is science fiction. We need a new explanation of the world, this is just as bad as the taking snake and the apple story

  24. Hmm… talvez no futuro a biotecnologia substitua as máquinas.
    Já consigo ver plantas transmitindo sinal de internet.
    Só precisamos criar órgãos internos nelas que possam produzir mais energia e mais nutrientes que seriam necessários parar desenvolver específicas atividades.

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