Q&A: ANTONIO DAMASIO, M.D. Ph.D @ USC – Brain and Creativity Institute

Written on January 11th, 2011



Aired 01/09/11

ANTONIO DAMASIO, M.D. Ph.D is the David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience and Director, Brain and Creativity Institute, at the University of Southern California. Damasio,the recipient of numerous honors worldwide and author of bestselling books, was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 1999.

In his newest book, Self Comes to Mind, Antonio Damasio presents compelling new scientific evidence that consciousness-what we think of as a mind with a self-is a biological process created by a living organism. Damasio takes an evolutionary perspective and links the millions of single cells in the human body and brain with single celled organisms. Organisms use whatever tools they have to regulate and manage their biological systems, in order to maintain the balance or homeostasis essential to survive. As consciousness evolves to what he terms the autobiographical self in humans, life management aims not only for survival, but for well-being.

Damasio suggests that the brain's development of a human self opens the way for the appearance of culture -- a radical break in the course of evolution that offers a new level of life regulation - what he calls sociocultural homeostasis.

How are we doing? Is society -- as an organism -- managing itself to achieve balance? It doesn't look good to me right now - in terms of equity, energy, consumption, climate change, etc.