Opinion: Plants have neither synapses nor a nervous system (J. Plant Physiol)

The question “Are plants intelligent?” is raised regularly, with answer often “Well, it depends how you define intelligence.” Another interesting question is whether or not plants have cellular structures that are analogous to those that make up the animal nervous system. Robinson and Draguhn argue that they do not, in this carefully constructed Opinion article. This is an intriguing article that could be compelling to students and useful for teaching. The authors, a plant cell biologist and a neuroscientist, compare and contrast features of the animal nervous system (synapses, neurons) to structures in plants (plasmodesmata, phloem system), and conclude that although plants “certainly do have complex cell contacts and signaling mechanisms, none of these structures provides a basis for neuronal-like synaptic transmission.” (Summary by Mary Williams @PlantTeaching)  J. Plant Physiol. 10.1016/j.jplph.2021.153467

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