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Trends Plant Sci. 2019 Aug;24(8):677-687. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2019.05.008. Epub 2019 Jul 3.

Plants Neither Possess nor Require Consciousness.

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Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064, USA. Electronic address:
Neurotrope, Inc., 1185 Avenue of the Americas, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10036, USA.
Institut für Physiologie und Pathophysiologie, Medizinische Fakultät Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 326, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, 2104 Plant Sciences Building, College Park, MD 20742, USA.
Laboratory of Plant Physiology and Biophysics, Bower Building, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK.
Department of Biological and Medical Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford OX3 0BP, UK.
Department of Biology, Technische Universität Darmstadt, Schnittspahnstraße 3, 64287, Darmstadt, Germany.
Centre for Organismal Studies, University of Heidelberg, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


In claiming that plants have consciousness, 'plant neurobiologists' have consistently glossed over the remarkable degree of structural and functional complexity that the brain had to evolve for consciousness to emerge. Here, we outline a new hypothesis proposed by Feinberg and Mallat for the evolution of consciousness in animals. Based on a survey of the brain anatomy, functional complexity, and behaviors of a broad spectrum of animals, criteria were established for the emergence of consciousness. The only animals that satisfied these criteria were the vertebrates (including fish), arthropods (e.g., insects, crabs), and cephalopods (e.g., octopuses, squids). In light of Feinberg and Mallat's analysis, we consider the likelihood that plants, with their relative organizational simplicity and lack of neurons and brains, have consciousness to be effectively nil.


auxin; brain; cognition; consciousness; pain; plant neurobiology, Naturphilosophie

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