The field of bioelectricity is very enlightening. The intro to Michael Levin’s lab states:
We work at the intersection of developmental biology, computer science, and cognitive science. Our goal is to understand degrees of intelligence at multiple scales of biological, artificial, and hybrid systems; we use these insights to develop interventions in regenerative medicine.
This discussion with Michael Levin gives more details on their operation and experiments.The genome of a multi-cellular organism specifies the ‘micro-level hardware’, (as Levin puts it), which is present in every cell but there’s nothing observed in the genome that specifies the complex forms; size, shape, locations of organs, that sort of thing.
During morphogenesis the bioelectric pattern precedes gene expression and without any alterations to the genome the manipulation of this pattern can alter form in multiple ways. The bioelectric signals control the genes.
Biologists can speculate on how it might be possible for genomic mutations and selection to produce the specified complexity of living organisms, but what bioelectricity research is revealing is that there is a collective intelligence in and between the cells of organisms that originate at a level above that of the gene.
An interesting result from working on planaria, is that they can regenerate entire organisms from each dissected piece even when cut into hundreds of individual pieces. Not only that but the newly formed organisms can retain the memory of the original individual even if the newly formed worm developed from a piece of tail. According to Levin this information is somehow imprinted in the new brain.