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Bacteria provide new insights into human decision making
Date:12/11/2009

because of the secretion of adrenaline and therefore we have the sensation of time slowing down. In addition to internal stress, each bacterium adjusts the pace of its timer accordingly to the stress of its peers and their intention to sporulate or to go into competence."

According to Onuchic, bacteria usually do not cheat their friends and inform them by sending chemical messages about their true intensions.

"We have developed for the first time a system level model of a large gene network to decipher the underlying principles of the bacteria game theory and how an internal network of genes and proteins is used to calculate risks in this complicated situation," he said.

This has applications to human society because many people encounter similar dilemmas during their own lives. For example, should people ignore side effects and vaccinate against a new potentially lethal virus or should they not vaccinate and take the risk of being infected with the possible consequences? If the majority of the population is going to get vaccinated, then it is better for each individual not to get vaccinated. However, if most people will not be vaccinated then it is better to be vaccinated.

"What each bacterium is doing is the equivalent if each individual on earth was able receive the exact information about the rate of spread of this new virus, the exact information about the intensions, to be vaccinated or not, by each person on the planet, and in addition the exact information about the health risks of side effects or being infected," said Ben Jacob. "A decision is then made in the context of this vast amount of information."

"We have shown how the bacteria do this complex calculation according to well-defined principles," added Onuchic. "We learned a simple rule: Anyone who needs to make a decision under pressure in life, especially if it is a possible death decision, will take its time. She or he will review the trends of change,
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Contact: Kim McDonald
kmcdonald@ucsd.edu
858-534-7572
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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