June 09-13, 2024
Erice, Sicily, ITALY

Workshop Organizers

Conference goals

Giorgio Vallortigara (Centre for Mind/Brain Sciences,University of Trento, Italy)
Lucia Regolin (University of Padua, Italy)
Pier Francesco Ferrari (Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod, CNRS, Lyon, France)

Purpose of the Workshop

Conference goals

The purpose of the Workshop is to look at model organisms as diverse as possible with the aim of unveiling a more comprehensive meaning of the concept of «cognition». Our motivation for this workshop stems from the need to examine cognitive evidence devoid of anthropocentric biases. We aim to focus on compelling evidence of intelligent behavior in various organisms, ranging from insects to single-cell organisms, and extending to the potential for plant intelligence and cognition. Convincing evidence of intelligent behaviour is attested in a variety of organisms, from the pin-brained organisms provided by invertebrates such as insects to single celled organisms such as ciliate or protists up to the possibility of plant intelligence and cognition. Another focal point of the workshop is the role of synaptic plasticity in learning and memory, which is currently a prominent topic in neuroscience. We will revisit past studies on Pavlovian conditioning in organisms like Paramecium aurelia and planarians, reevaluating the association between nuclear mechanisms and long-term memory storage, which has implications for cognition in single-cell organisms. Studies of minimal cognition in brain and brainless organisms should be complemented by the study of the plasticity of dynamic morphogenesis of biological forms as revealed by regenerative biology and controlled chimerism. The development of synthetic living machines with behavioral capacity, offers new avenues for understanding the origins of cognition in all of possible forms of material implementations.

Facilitating interdisciplinary dialogue is another main objective of the workshop. We aim to establish a common glossary and theoretical framework for the evidence of minimal cognition. Possibly times are mature enough to propose and agree on some shared statements about the newly defined understanding of cognition. In this workshop, we aim at fostering interdisciplinary exchanges between biologists, plant physiologists, neuroscientists, ethologists, and psychologists, in order to offer a comparative analysis of fundamental and minimal processes involved in cognition. By bringing together leading figures in science working with different species from invertebrates to single cell organisms, from plants to synthetic organisms, we will outline an interdisciplinary approach to the understanding of basic mechanisms of organization and functioning of cognition in a comparative perspective. The workshop will pursue this overall goal by fostering discussion between scholars, students and researchers from different field of sciences.

Speakers & Topics

Hessameddin Akhlaghpour

An emerging bridge between polynucleotides and intelligent computation in nature

Kristin Andrews

All animals are conscious: shifting the default hypothesis

Kostantin Anhokin

Cognitome - minimal conditions for its emergence

Frantisek Baluska

Cognitive View of Life – From Cells to Biosphere

Ranieri Bizzarri

Investigating the chemical cognition and the memory of a single cell by optical imaging

Björn Brembs

If fruit fly brains negotiate internal and external strains, is it minimal cognition?

Romain Brette

Proto-cognition of a swimming neuron

Paco Calvo

Green Minds or Blind Spots? Exploring Plant Sentience Amidst Scientific Bias.

Umberto Castiello

‘Grasping’ the intelligence of plants

Robert Elwood

Hermit crabs, cognition and sentience?

Randy Gallistel

The associative learning equations and their neurobiological implications

Martin Giurfa

From concepts, numbers and awareness in honey bees

David Glanzman

The evidence for non-synaptic, cell-intrinsic encoding of memory

Peter Godfrey-Smith

Two Models for Minimal Minds

Simon Laughlin

What makes brains special

Pietro Perconti

Minimal Consciousness