DNA is considered to be the blueprint from which any organism can be created. DNA carries the genetic information to construct a living body. DNA carries genes which represents the information that is used to produce proteins which operate and shape the body. So what exactly is the difference in human genome which sets it apart from other species and makes it self-conscious ? Are there specific genes for self-consciousness that makes a particular animal conscious ?

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    $\begingroup$ I have edited your (naive) question, replacing your misuse of "genetic code". See the Wikipedia entry to get the answer to what the genetic code is. The secret of conciousness, you won't find an answer to. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Oct 31 '19 at 13:54

DNA is considered to be the blueprint from which any organism can be created

It's the main blueprint, true, but in order for DNA to be functional it needs a complex composition of proteins, ions, membranes, sugars etc.. You know, all your cells have the same DNA, yet they all are different!

A friend of mine, a leading expert in stem cell manipulation, is even struggling to force a single differentiation of his stem-cells. So no, no one can create an organism solely from it's DNA.

So what exactly is the difference in human DNA which sets it apart from other species and makes it self-conscious ?

The building blocks of DNA, the 4 nucleotides, are the same for all living organisms.

Is there a specific gene for self-consciousness that makes a particular animal conscious ?

The interaction of genes is way to complex to point out a single most relevant gene responsible for consciousness. There is not a single gene that functions without the others. Anyways, the human brains function is heavily dependent on it's structure; the physical connection between cells. So if you want to search for genes that are involved in consciousness I would look at the group of structure/differentiation controlling genes. For example NOTCH2NL was found to be involved in control of the brain size. (The Notch protein family is involved in developmental differentiation and acts through cell-cell contact)

  • $\begingroup$ Biritsh Scientists have successfully created a new organism 'Syn61' from recoded genome. You can refer article published in Nature [nature.com/articles/s41586-019-1192-5.epdf]. So its possible to create an organism from its DNA. $\endgroup$
    – chatzz
    Nov 1 '19 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ @chaitanyabudkule: You've misunderstood that paper — they replaced the genome of a strain of E. coli with a synthetic version. This would not work without the "machinery" (proteins, RNAs, membranes, metabolites etc.) present in the "host" bacterial cell. $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Nov 1 '19 at 18:47

Nothing! If DNA is one way of doing life–which is not well defined–it has shown that in all its forms it has been creating organisms with some form of intelligence. If you can accept that there can be different levels of consciousness and intelligence, then it may almost be easier to ask which organisms have zero consciousness?

Here's a video showing that plants have intelligence in that they respond to current events and plan responses for the near future. Plants have their own kind of nervous system from Science Magazine.

Clearly, it must be like something to be a plant.


While we likely do not know exactly what constitutes consciousness, we can likely surmise that other organisms are conscious (or at least show what we might call self-awareness), and we can probably agree that the brain (or at least a nervous system) is an organ critical to developing and maintaining consciousness in an organism. The Hox family of genes (and their associated DNA sequences) guide the orientation of embryonic cells and the subsequent development of the brain in most eukaryotes, including humans. Cites of relevance: 1) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hox_gene 2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20795329/ 3) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-awareness#Animals

  • $\begingroup$ DNA may be the blueprint, but - like the blueprints used in construction - it does nothing without a whole bunch of complicated machinery, which we call a parent. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Oct 31 '19 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know what your comment means, I'm sorry. $\endgroup$ Oct 31 '19 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ It means that if you have a string of DNA, it basically won't do anything unless it's imbedded in a cell. And it has to be a cell of the proper sort. Unless I've totally misunderstood biology, if you want to make a frog, you have to put the frog DNA in a frog egg cell. If you put it in say a rat egg cell, I doubt if you'd get anything viable - though it might make an interesting experiment. It'd be like handing the blueprints for an airplane to a housing construction crew :-) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Nov 1 '19 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ I don't know what your comment means in the context of genomics or developmental biology, which is the crux of the question. If you have a better answer, please post it separately. $\endgroup$ Nov 1 '19 at 3:53

Are there specific genes for self-consciousness that makes a particular animal conscious ?

The mechanism of self-consciousness in the brain (in the cortex) is separate from the formation of the brain which is separate from the genetic control of the brain development. You want an answer for the genetic control of the brain development (cell differentiation, embryonic development) that will explain the mechanism of self-consciousness at the same time.

So; the short answer is "No, there are not".

It is clear that consciousness is the product of a brain structure which is made of complex connections between a high number of neurons. These neurons are formed and construct an organ (with other cell types) in the process of embryonic and fetal development. Neuron formation, placement and connection is influenced/guided by some genes. But that does not mean that "a couple of genes carry the information to construct a brain". Genes control the cell, not the organ. Genes affect the cell structure and cell's operation; cell structure and cell's operation affects the organ development; organ's structure affects its functions and products.

Some reading on organ development can be helpful to understand this point (for example; Forces shaping the Drosophila wing).

But, if you refer the genes which guide the brain development as genes that create consciousness, then yes, there are consciousness genes. But, of course, this won't solve anything.


When you look in the mirror, you see yourself. That puts you in the company of animals like dolphins, elephants, chimpanzees, and magpies, all of whom have shown the ability to recognize their own reflections.

The mirror test is often used as a way of measuring whether animals possess self-awareness. Some fish have recently passed the test, which has left scientists confused about limits of "self consciousness".


Other animals have far less of it, and it correlates with logical thinking and intelligence too. It's like a side effect or component of animal intelect and wit.

DNA codes intelligence hardware and number of neurons, just like number of teeth and pilosity. On the next hyperlink theres info about 22 genes for intelligence and "dna for brain volume"

Intelligence is the key to human survival since 500+ billion years:

Making spears, fire, tools, clothes, and avoiding death from other monkey tricks.

DNA of brain size and logical ability has incrementally been sharply selected and increased for humans.


Theres even articles on logic gates within DNA. Self-concious often signifies introverted emotion, so it's rarely used in biology journals. Self-aware is used in animal psychology tests, and is relative / not an exact science.


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