The "Altenberg Workshops in Theoretical Biology" address key questions of biological theories. Each workshop is organized by leading experts of a certain field who invite a group of international specialists to the KLI. The Altenberg Workshops aim to make conceptual progress and to generate initiatives of a distinctly interdisciplinary nature.
The Darwinian assumption that very simple organisms may yield principles critical to understanding the biology of Homo sapiens has led to monumental discoveries, yet the cognitive sciences have tended to resist this approach. Now an absence of theory has become a handicap, particularly in neuroscience. The workshop will examine organisms neglected by the cognitive sciences—unicellular organisms, plants and simple animals with and without nervous systems—to see if the mechanisms by which they sense and respond to the world can illuminate similar functions in more complex animals, including humans. We propose the ‘ground-floor’ of biocognition lies in cellular signaling, and predict that the patterns of activity in signal transduction networks found in social microbes and simple unicellular and multicellular eukaryotes can provide important clues to how cognition has evolved and how animal brains work.