Antonio Damasio Professor of Neuroscience

University of Southern California; Director, Brain and Creativity Institute


Antonio Damasio is a leading neuroscientist investigating the biological nature of consciousness. He has spent his career exploring how the sense of a self—the feeling that there is a “you” inside you—arises in human beings. Damasio believes this experience of the self is generated from a combination of body sensations and self-referential thoughts. For example, emotions, feelings, and memories all contribute to the maintenance of an ongoing sense of selfhood. He also argues that emotions, usually seen as an impediment, are a crucial component of decision making, and that all decisions are based on emotional evaluations. As he puts it, “Emotions and the feelings are not a luxury, they are a means of communicating our states of mind to others. But they are also a way of guiding our own judgments and decisions. Emotions bring the body into the loop of reason.” In both the realms of emotion and of the self, Damasio highlights the biological underpinnings of these processes, how they are expressed in other animals, as well as the evolutionary background of why they may have arisen. He believes that as we dig more deeply into the biological mechanisms behind consciousness, we will uncover their origins at the level of individual neurons.

Descartes' Error
The Feeling of What Happens
Looking for Spinoza
Self Comes to Mind

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