The evolutionary origins of consciousness

Todd E. Feinberg, Jon Mallatt

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

7 Scopus citations


In this chapter, we update our recent two-step model of the evolution of primary, phenomenal, sensory consciousness in vertebrate animals, a model based on neurobiological naturalism (see Chapter 1). The model proposes that this consciousness fi rst appeared in the earliest vertebrates from mental reconstructions at the top of topographically organized neural hierarchies in the optic tectum of the midbrain (for vision and other senses) and in the pallium of the forebrain (for smell perception). Here, we add more information about the optic tectum that relates to such image reconstruction. Second, sensory consciousness leaped forward independently in the fi rst mammals and then in the fi rst birds, to be generated by an expanding dorsal pallium ( cerebral cortex). We propose more reasons for this second step, all related to the favorable location of the dorsal pallium at the nexus of all kinds of sensory input, already highly processed, and near the hippocampus so that conscious experiences could be enriched by memories.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiophysics of Consciousness
Subtitle of host publicationA Foundational Approach
PublisherWorld Scientific Publishing Co. Pte Ltd
Number of pages40
ISBN (Electronic)9789814644266
ISBN (Print)9789814644259
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2016


  • Animal consciousness
  • Bird origin
  • Cambrian period
  • Cerebral cortex
  • Fi sh
  • Lamprey
  • Mammal origin
  • Optic tectum
  • Topographic (isomorphic) mapping
  • Vertebrate evolution


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