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Artificial Life

Summer 2010, Vol. 16, No. 3, Pages 233-243
(doi: 10.1162/artl_a_00002)
© 2010 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Chemical Basis for Minimal Cognition
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We have developed a simple chemical system capable of self-movement in order to study the physicochemical origins of movement. We propose how this system may be useful in the study of minimal perception and cognition. The system consists simply of an oil droplet in an aqueous environment. A chemical reaction within the oil droplet induces an instability, the symmetry of the oil droplet breaks, and the droplet begins to move through the aqueous phase. The complement of physical phenomena that is then generated indicates the presence of feedback cycles that, as will be argued, form the basis for self-regulation, homeostasis, and perhaps an extended form of autopoiesis. We discuss the result that simple chemical systems are capable of sensory-motor coupling and possess a homeodynamic state from which cognitive processes may emerge.