Broadening the definition of a nervous system to better understand the evolution of plants and animals
Sergio Miguel-Tomé & Rodolfo R. Llinás
Most textbook definitions recognize only animals as having nervous systems. However, for the past couple decades, botanists have been meticulously studying long-distance signaling systems in plants, and some researchers have stated that plants have a simple nervous system. Thus, an academic conflict has emerged between those who defend and those who deny the existence of a nervous system in plants. This article analyses that debate, and we propose an alternative to answering yes or no: broadening the definition of a nervous system to include plants. We claim that a definition broader than the current one, which is based only on a phylogenetic viewpoint, would be helpful in obtaining a deeper understanding of how evolution has driven the features of signal generation, transmission and processing in multicellular beings.