Complex Thought and Emotion Detected in Broccoli

By Bea Pea

In a setback for vegans and vegetarians, a team of French neuroscientists has discovered that a head of broccoli functions much like the human brain, allowing this common green vegetable to think and feel in ways similar to people.

A network of interacting florets

A network of interacting florets

With its complex network of interacting florets, broccoli must now be thought of as an “organ” that generates perception, consciousness and memories, according to Hélène Bechard, a professor at the École des Neurosciences in Paris and a member of the broccoli research team.

“Using electrodes and imaging technologies,” said Bechard, “we found that the approach of a kitchen knife activates the group of florets associated with fear and panic in broccoli. Alternatively, broccoli’s exposure to sun or rain stimulates the florets associated with love, comfort, and sexual pleasure.”

Despite the revelation of vegetable emotion and intelligence, many questions remain.

“What’s interesting is that broccoli did not evolve a skull or any kind of a shell to protect it,” said Bechard. “Even more interesting is that broccoli doesn’t have a body or frame to go along with its head. It’s just a little green brain sitting there, silent and motionless—utterly helpless, without a single defense mechanism. How this thing survived, from an evolutionary standpoint, is beyond all of us at this point.” 

Whether the news of broccoli’s humanity—or broccolianity—will dissuade vegans and vegetarians from eating the attractive green vegetable is as yet unknown. Preliminary indications are that most other people will continue to enjoy broccoli—delighting in the taste and texture of whole, raw, living brain.