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Antonio Damasio

Antonio Damasio
Damasio at the World Science Festival in 2008
Born Born in Lisbon, Portugal
Nationality U.S. and Portuguese
Fields Cognitive Neuroscience
Institutions University of Southern California
Alma mater University of Lisbon
Thesis Perturbações neurológicas da linguagem e de outras funções simbólicas (1974)
Influenced Catherine Malabou
Notable awards Pessoa Prize (1992)
Golden Brain Award (1995)
Grawemeyer Award in Psychology (2014)
Spouse Hanna Damasio

Antonio Damasio (Portuguese: António Damásio) is a Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Professor at the Salk Institute[1] Dr. Damasio is the author of several books and heads the Brain and Creativity Institute) His book "Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain", explores the relationship between the brain and consciousness. [2] "Antonio Damasio's research in neuroscience has shown that emotions play a central role in social cognition and decision-making"[3]


  • Life and work 1
  • Selected bibliography 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Life and work

Damasio studied medicine at the University of Lisbon Medical School, where he also did his neurological residency and completed his doctorate. For part of his studies he researched behavioral neurology under the supervision of the Norman Geschwind of the Aphasia Research Center in Boston.

Damasio's main field is neurobiology, especially neural systems which subserve emotion, decision-making, memory, language and consciousness. Damasio believes that emotions play a critical role in high-level cognition—an idea counter to dominant 20th-century views in psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.

Damasio in 2008.

Damasio formulated the somatic marker hypothesis,[4] a theory about how emotions and their biological underpinnings are involved in decision-making (both positively and negatively, and often non-consciously). Emotions provide the scaffolding for the construction of social cognition and are required for the self processes which undergird consciousness. "Damasio provides a contemporary scientific validation of the linkage between feelings and the body by highlighting the connection between mind and nerve cells...this personalized embodiment of mind."[5]

The somatic marker hypothesis has inspired many neuroscience experiments carried out in laboratories in the U.S. and Europe, and has had a major impact in contemporary science and philosophy. Damasio has been named by the Institute for Scientific Information as one of the most highly cited researchers in the past decade). Current work on the biology of moral decisions, neuro-economics, social communication, and drug-addiction, has been strongly influenced by Damasio's hypothesis.An article published in the Archives of Scientific Psychology published in 2014 named Damasio one of the 100 most eminent psychologist of the modern era. (Diener et. al. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 2014, 2, 20-32). The June-July issue of Sciences Humaines included Damasio in its list of 50 key thinkers in the human sciences of the past two centuries.

Damasio also proposed that emotions are part of homeostatic regulation and are rooted in reward/punishment mechanisms. He recovered James' perspective on feelings as a read-out of body states, but expanded it with an "as-if-body-loop" device which allows for the substrate of feelings to be simulated rather than actual (foreshadowing the simulation process later uncovered by mirror neurons). He demonstrated experimentally that the insular cortex is a critical platform for feelings, a finding that has been widely replicated, and he uncovered cortical and subcortical induction sites for human emotions, e.g. in ventromedial prefrontal cortex and amygdala.[6] He also demonstrated that while the insular cortex plays a major role in feelings, it is not necessary for feelings to occur, suggesting that brain stem structures play a basic role in the feeling process.[7]

He has continued to investigate the neural basis of feelings and demonstrated that although the insular cortex is a major substrate for this process it is not exclusive, suggesting that brain stem nuclei are critical platforms as well.[8] He regards feelings as the necessary foundation of sentience.

In another development, Damasio proposed that the cortical architecture on which learning and recall depend involves multiple, hierarchically organized loops of axonal projections that converge on certain nodes out of which projections diverge to the points of origin of convergence (the "convergence-divergence framework"). This architecture is applicable to the understanding of memory processes and of aspects of consciousness related to the access of mental contents.[9]

In The Feeling of What Happens, Damasio laid the foundations of the "enchainment of precedences": “the nonconscious protoself which permits core self and core consciousness, which allow for an autobiographical self, which permits extended consciousness. At the end of the chain, extended consciousness permits conscience.[10]

Damasio's research depended significantly on establishing the modern human lesion method, an enterprise made possible by Hanna Damasio's structural neuroimaging/neuroanatomy work complemented by experimental neuroanatomy (with Gary Van Hoesen and Josef Parvizi), experimental neuropsychology (with Antoine Bechara, Ralph Adolphs, and Dan Tranel) and functional neuroimaging (with Kaspar Meyer, Jonas Kaplan, and Mary Helen Immordino-Yang). The experimental neuroanatomy work with Van Hoesen and Bradley Hyman led to the discovery of the disconnection of the hippocampus caused by neurofibrillary tangles in the entophinal cortex of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.[11]

As a clinician, he and his collaborators have studied and treated disorders of behaviour and cognition, and movement disorders.

Damasio's books deal with the relationship between emotions and feelings, and what their brain substrates. His 1994 book, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain, won the Science et Vie prize, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and is translated in over 30 languages. It is regarded as one of the most influential books of the past two decades.[12] His second book, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, was named as one of the ten best books of 2001 by the New York Times Book Review, a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, a Library Journal Best Book of the Year, and has over 30 foreign editions. Damasio's Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, was published in 2003. In it, Damasio suggested that Spinoza's thinking foreshadowed discoveries in biology and neuroscience views on the mind-body problem and that Spinoza was a protobiologist. Damasio's latest book is Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain. In it Damasio suggests that the self is the key to conscious minds and that feelings, from the kind he designates as primordial to the well-known feelings of emotion, are the basic elements in the construction of the protoself and core self. The book received the Corinne International Book Prize.[13]

Damasio is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, the European Academy of Sciences and Arts and since 2014 he is honorary member of the NMSBA (international association for neuromarketing).[14] He is the recipient of several prizes, amongst them the Grawemeyer Award, the Honda Prize, the Prince of Asturias Award in Science and Technology and the Beaumont Medal from the American Medical Association, as well as honorary degrees from, most recently, the Sorbonne (Université Paris Descartes), shared with his wife Hanna Damasio. He has also received doctorates from the Universities of Aachen, Copenhagen, Leiden, Barcelona, Coimbra, Leuven and numerous others.[15]

In 2013, the Escola Secundária António Damásio was dedicated in Lisbon.

He says he writes in the belief that "scientific knowledge can be a pillar to help humans endure and prevail."[16]

He is married to Hanna Damasio, a prominent neuroscientist and frequent collaborator and co-author, who is a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California and the director of the Dornsife Neuroimaging Center.

Selected bibliography


  • The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of Consciousness, Harcourt, 1999
  • Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain, Harcourt, 2003
  • Self Comes to Mind: Constructing the Conscious Brain, Pantheon, 2010

Selected articles

  • Fox, G.R., Kaplan, J., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. (2015). Neural correlates of gratitude. Frontiers in Psychology, 6(1491),
  • Sachs, M., Damasio, A., & Habibi, A. (2015). The pleasures of sad music: a systematic review. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 9(404), 1-12. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2015.00404.
  • Man, K., Damasio, A., Meyer, K., & Kaplan, J.T. (2015). Convergent and invariant object representations for sight, sound, and touch. Human Brain Mapping. 36(9): 3629-3640. doi:10.1002/hbm.22867.
  • Habibi, A., & Damasio, A. (2014). Music, feelings and the human brain. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind and Brain, 24(1), 92-102.
  • Man K, Kaplan J.T., Damasio H, Damasio A. (28 October 2013). "Neural convergence and divergence in the mammalian cerebral cortex: from experimental neuroanatomy to functional neuroimaging".  
  • Araujo H P, Kaplan JT, Damasio A (4 September 2013 September). "Cortical midline structures and autobiographical-self processes: an activation-likelihood estimation (ALE) meta-analysis".  
  • Damasio, A; Carvalho, GB (2013). "The nature of feelings: Evolutionary and neurobiological origins". Nature reviews. Neuroscience 14 (2): 143–52.  
  • Damasio A, Damasio H, Tranel D. (2012). "Persistence of feelings and sentience after bilateral damage of the insula". Cerebral Cortex 23 (4): 833–46.  
  • Feinstein J, Adolphs R, Damasio A, Tranel D. (2011). "The human amygdala and the induction and experience of fear". Current Biology 21: 1–5.  
  • Meyer K, Kaplan JT, Essex R, Damasio H, Damasio A. (2011). "Seeing touch is correlated with content-specific activity in primary somatosensory cortex". Cerebral Cortex 21 (9): 2113–2121.  
  • Meyer K, Kaplan JT, Essex R, Webber C, Damasio H, Damasio A. (2010). "Predicting visual stimuli based on activity in auditory cortices". Nature Neuroscience 13 (6): 667–668.  
  • Meyer K, Damasio A. (2009). "Convergence and divergence in a neural architecture for recognition and memory". Trends in Neurosciences 32 (7): 376–382.  
  • Immordino-Yang MH, McColl A, Damasio H, Damasio A. (2009). "Neural correlates of admiration and compassion". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 106 (19): 8021–8026.  
  • Damasio A, Meyer K. (2008). "Behind the looking glass". Nature 454 (7201): 167–168.  
  • Parvizi J, Van Hoesen G, Buckwalter J, Damasio A. (2006). "Neural connections of the posteromedial cortex in the macaque: Implications for the understanding of the neural basis of consciousness". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 103 (5): 1563–1568.  
  • Shiv B, Lowenstein G, Bechara A, Damasio H, Damasio A. (2005). "Investment behavior and the negative side of emotion". Psychological Sciences 16: 435–439. 
  • Parvizi J, Damasio AR. (2003). "Neuroanatomical correlates of brainstem coma". Brain 126 (Pt 7): 1524–1536.  
  • Parvizi J, Damasio AR. (2001). "Consciousness and the brainstem". Cognition 79 (1–2): 135–160.  
  • Damasio AR, Grabowski TJ, Bechara A, Damasio H, Ponto LLB, Parvizi J, Hichwa RD. (2000). "Subcortical and cortical brain activity during the feeling of self-generated emotions". Nature Neuroscience 3 (10): 1049–1056.  
  • Damasio AR. (1999). "How the brain creates the mind". Scientific American 281 (6): 74–79.  
  • Damasio AR. (1998). "Investigating the biology of consciousness". Transactions of the Royal Society(London) 353: 1879–1882.  
  • Bechara A, Damasio H, Tranel D, Damasio AR. (1997). "Deciding advantageously before knowing the advantageous strategy". Science 275 (5304): 1293–1294.  
  • Damasio AR. (1996). "The somatic marker hypothesis and the possible functions of the prefrontal cortex". Transactions of the Royal Society(London) 351 (1346): 1413–1420.  
  • Bechara A, Damasio AR, Damasio H, Anderson S. (1994). "Insensitivity to future consequences following damage to human prefrontal cortex". Cognition. 50 50 (1-3): 7–15.  
  • Adolphs R, Tranel D, Damasio AR. (1994). "Impaired recognition of emotion in facial expressions following bilateral damage to the human amygdala". Nature 372 (6507): 669–672.  
  • Damasio AR, Tranel D. (1993). "Nouns and verbs are retrieved with differently distributed neural systems". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 90 (11): 4957–4960.  
  • Damasio A, Tranel D, Damasio H. (1990). "Face agnosia and the neural substrates of memory". Annual Review of Neuroscience 13: 89–109.  
  • Damasio AR. (1989). "Time-locked multiregional retroactivation: A systems level proposal for the neural substrates of recall and recognition". Cognition 33 (1–2): 25–62.  
  • Tranel D and Damasio A. (1985). "Knowledge without awareness: An autonomic index of facial recognition by prosopagnosics". Science. 228(21) (4706): 1453–1454.  
  • Hyman B, Van Hoesen GW, Damasio A, Barnes C. (1984). "Alzheimer's disease: Cell-specific pathology isolates the hippocampal formation". Science 225 (4667): 1168–1170.  
  • Damasio A and Geschwind N: (1984). "The neural basis of language". Annual Review of Neuroscience 7: 127–147.  
  • Anderson SW, Bechara A, Damasio H, Tranel D, Damasio AR. (1999). "Impairment of social and moral behaviour related to early damage in human prefrontal cortex". Nature Neuroscience 2 (11): 1032–1037.  

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ Damasio AR. The somatic marker hypothesis and the possible functions of the pre-frontal cortex. Transactions of the Royal Society. (London). 351:1413-1420. 1996.
  5. ^ Lara Trout, The Politics of Survival (2010) p. 74
  6. ^ Damasio AR, Grabowski TJ, Bechara A, Damasio H, Ponto LLB, Parvizi J, Hichwa RD. Subcortical and cortical brain activity during the feeling of self-generated emotions" Nature Neuroscience 3:1049-1056. 2000
  7. ^ Damasio A, Damasio H, Tranel D. Persistence of feelings and sentience after bilateral damage of the insula. Cerebral Cortex. 2012. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhs077
  8. ^ Damasio A, Damasio H, and Tranel, Cerebral Cortex, 2012
  9. ^ Damasio AR. Time-locked multiregional retroactivation: a systems level proposal for the neural substrates of recall and recognition" Cognition 33:25-62. 1989
  10. ^ Damasio, António (1999). The Feeling of What Happens. Harcourt.  
  11. ^ Hyman B, Van Hoesen GW, Damasio A, Barnes C. Alzheimer's disease: cell-specific pathology isolates the hippocampal formation" Science 225:1168-1170. 1984
  12. ^ In January 2010, Sciences Humaines named it one of the 20 books that changed the vision of the world. The book has been cited over 13,000 times
  13. ^ Damasio, António. "Self Comes to Mind". 
  14. ^
  15. ^ Damasio, António. "USC faculty website". 
  16. ^ António R. Damasio, Descartes' Error (New York 1994) p. 252

External links

  • USC Faculty page
  • Brain and Creativity Institute
  • Antonio Damasio at TED
    • Antonio Damasio: The quest to understand consciousness (TED2011)
  • Audio of António Damasio 2003 lecture, "Emotion, Feeling, and Social Behavior: The Brain Perspective" at Walter Chapin Simpson Center for the Humanities
  • Ideas of António Damasio – JRSM book review
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