Hyphal and mycelial consciousness

Where the science is going is to dethrone not just human but also animal cognition!

Cognition is being manifested by sources with almost nothing in common. Parallel evolution is much more likely than genes carried over from the shared ancestor of mushrooms, octopuses, crows, and people.

If this doesn’t seem beyond weird to you, stop. It is almost impossible to process intuitively that a mycorrhizal web underground has a mind like your own.

This whole line of learning suggests that any thriving exo-ecology will contain intelligence. The chance that any life we may find will demonstrate cognition is going up.

Studies on mycelia and mycorrhizas have encouraged the concept of the forest as a kind of super-organism with a “wood wide net” formulated by fungal connections between trees. This awkward allusion to the World Wide Web has some usefulness as a metaphor, and is an attention grabber, but it does a disservice to the fungi. In this brief essay I have considered fungal expressions of consciousness, including sensitivity, decision making, learning, and memory. This rich behavioral repertoire allows fungi to adapt in real time to changes in environmental circumstances. Our internet shows none of this inherent flexibility. It is a network of pathways that generates nothing on its own. Life outshines the limitations of this drab technology in every cell. With the wealth of research revealing the sensitivity and responsiveness of individual hyphae to their environment, coupled with the novel studies on mycelial learning and memory, now is a fruitful time to recognize the study of fungal ethology as a distinctive discipline within mycology.

Hyphal and mycelial consciousness: the concept of the fungal mind

In recent years, a body of remarkable experiments have shown that fungi operate as individuals, engage in decision-making, are capable of learning, and possess short-term memory. These findings highlight the spectacular sensitivity of such ‘simple’ organisms, and situate the human version of the mind within a spectrum of consciousness that might well span the entire natural world.

The fungal mind: on the evidence for mushroom intelligence

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