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Fungi With a Spark: Exploring the Electrical Signals of Pink Oysters

measuring electrical signals of pink oysters

— Written by Tom DesRosiers, Elsa Fedrigolli & Luka Caric —

As the only fully equipped team, our week started off strong with an advantage compared to the others.

On the first few days, our brains were fried and it was difficult to get started. But by the end of the first week we were tripping with excitement (see what I did there!) about the ideas that we came up with regarding our mushroom experiment. Our project is taking a look at the electric potential in pink oyster mushrooms, and what sorts of stimuli provoke a response. Some of the stimuli may even end the mushroom’s life. But hey, that’s better for us we get to eat it after! This topic hasn’t been explored as deeply as it should have been, but this gives us an amazing opportunity to fill the gaps of science. 

Our entire project is based on Andrew Adamatzky’s paper “On spiking behavior of oyster fungi Pleurotus djamor,” where the author recorded spontaneous high- and low-frequency electrical potentials in fungi. Spontaneous in this context refers to a response in the absence of stimuli. The high- and low-frequency potentials mean the amount of spikes that were recorded per minute (2.6 min for high-frequency and 14 min for low-frequency spikes), as well as their amplitude. (0.88 mV for high-frequency, 1.3 mV for low-frequency). This is a very exciting finding, which we will also be testing in our experiments.

Examples of spike trains. (a) High frequency. (b) Low frequency. Sci Rep. 2018; 8: 7873.
Published online 2018 May 18. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26007-1 (Published under
Examples of spike trains. (a) High frequency. (b) Low frequency. Sci Rep. 2018; 8: 7873.
Published online 2018 May 18. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-26007-1 (Published under

Further, they also provoked the fungi in their experiment with ethanol, tap water, dimethylsiloxane and open flame and recorded the fungus response to this stimulation. We decided to do some forms of external stimulation and agreed upon water (with different kinds of salinity, temperature, distance), as well as the addition of Calcium and Calcium-channel blockers to our water. That idea was based on other research which suggests that some fungi exhibit electrical activity similar to Calcium waves. We will also be using thermal stimulation after all other experiments have been done.

getting ready for pink oysters electrical signals investigation

We couldn’t get started on our experiment right away since we received our growing kits quite late into this process and are preparing our babies to grow right now by spraying them with water twice per day (m-oyster-ure!), as well as keeping them in a dark environment. (On top of whispering loving words to them!) Luckily, we found a bunch of wild mushrooms growing around trees and parks in Belgrade and used them to test our equipment and get some basic electric spike readings in!

All in all, we are super excited for our project to unravel and to be the Champignon!

About Us

Tom is a sophomore at the University of Michigan with a passion for skateboarding and videogames. Another third of the team is Elsa, who is a PhD student in the field of biomedical sciences at the University of Novi Sad, Serbia and keeps her calm doing yoga and reading spiritual books. Luka is an undergraduate electrical engineer at the University of Belgrade, as well as part of Electronics subteam of Formula Student Road Arrow team. The great thing about them working and collaborating together is Tom’s knowledge on electronics, programming and neuroscience and Elsa’s and Luka’s enthusiasm to teach Tom about traditional Serbian culture. (There is still some work to do – Tom has not yet learned to dance Kolo!)

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