Discussions of the function of early nervous systems usually focus on a causal flow from sensors to effectors, by which an animal coordinates its actions with exogenous changes in its environment. We propose, instead, that much early sensing was reafferent; it was responsive to the consequences of the animal's own actions. We distinguish two general categories of reafference—translocational and deformational—and use these to survey the distribution of several often-neglected forms of sensing, including gravity sensing, flow sensing and proprioception. We discuss sensing of these kinds in sponges, ctenophores, placozoans, cnidarians and bilaterians. Reafference is ubiquitous, as ongoing action, especially whole-body motility, will almost inevitably influence the senses. Corollary discharge—a pathway or circuit by which an animal tracks its own actions and their reafferent consequences—is not a necessary feature of reafferent sensing but a later-evolving mechanism. We also argue for the importance of reafferent sensing to the evolution of the body-self, a form of organization that enables an animal to sense and act as a single unit. This article is part of the theme issue ‘Basal cognition: multicellularity, neurons and the cognitive lens’.
|Tijdschrift||Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences|
|Nummer van het tijdschrift||1821|
|Status||Published - 29-mrt-2021|