A Short History of Intelligence

We humans are only as intelligent as the knowledge we have to work with.

Inside The Brain


Understand (verb): to stand in the midst of, among, between.

Intelligence (noun): from the Latin words, inter (between), and legere (choose).

First things first — mushrooms

It was Charles Darwin who wrote that intelligence is based on how efficient a species becomes at doing the things it needs to survive. If that is the case, then the 2.5 billion-year-old fungi are undoubtedly the most intelligent organisms on Earth.

Most think that fungi just make mushrooms, but the unrelenting growth of fungal stems (hyphae) which are five times thinner than human hair, and the enzyme cocktail they excrete, is enough to shatter the hardest rock repeatedly, creating the first soils in a bare landscape. In addition, fungi hold that soil in place with their dense root-like net (mycelium).

Fungi shaped and guided the force of life on Earth

It is fungi who helped pave the way for modern plants and animals to colonise virgin ground and it was likely fungi who help plants to make the leap from our lakes and seas onto land 470 Million years ago. Fungi have enabled, shaped and guided the force of life on Earth.

Have transcendental fungi influenced human intelligence?

Some psychoactive fungi otherwise known as magic mushrooms contain a chemical compound called psilocybin (pronounced silo-sigh-bin) that can produce hallucinations like that of LSD and ergot, which are produced by mushrooms, and there are many such mushrooms capable of producing similar experiences.

Ancient cave art indicates a reverence for these ‘spiritual’ mushrooms.

In fact, some scholars suggest that the hallucinogenic effects of these mushrooms can explain the puzzling speed by which human culture, social structure; commerce, art and religion emerged about 70,000 years ago — by allowing our ancestors to expand their minds in the first place. Mushrooms may indeed be the…



Inside The Brain

Professor Billy O'Connor. Neuroscientist. Medical Educator. University of Limerick Graduate Medical School