Computing using transients
The function of biological and synthetic molecular circuits is often understood in terms of steady states or fixed points. Transients, while an inevitable feature of dynamical molecular circuits, are typically not exploited for function. We argue that these inevitable transients allow for rich and complex responses to external signals that vary on the same timescale as these transients; hence molecular circuits should be designed to exploit transients for computation. We show that transients allow circuits to naturally perform complex logical operations based on features in a time-varying signal. We outline the design principles needed to exploit transients by drawing on recent biological examples and show how such principles can help design temporal pattern detectors of high specificity using DNA strand displacement networks.