When researchers manipulated hydras' environmental conditions, they found that six common behaviors, captured in the above movie, hardly changed at all.YUSTE LAB/COLUMBIA UNIVERSITYA program developed to filter spam email has been used to identify the behaviors of pond-dwelling hydras. In a study published last month (March 28) in eLife, researchers describe how they took an algorithm originally developed for language processing and adapted it to visually assess what the hydras did when they were presented with changing environmental conditions. The program can recognize predefined movements and pick out new ones on its own.

Hydras, which are closely related to anemones and jellies, do not have a central nervous system or brain. Instead, they possess a system of interconnected neurons called a nerve net, and the researchers hope they’ll be able to use the new technique to learn how the nerve net functions.

“People have used machine learning...

S. Han et al., “Comprehensive machine learning analysis of Hydra behavior reveals a stable basal behavioral repertoire,” eLife, doi:10.7554/eLife.32605, 2018.

Interested in reading more?

The Scientist ARCHIVES

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!