Recent discoveries of advanced fish-like stem-tetrapods (for example, Panderichthys and Tiktaalik) have greatly improved our knowledge of the fin-to-limb transition. However, a paucity of fossil data from primitive finned tetrapods prevents profound understanding of the acquisition sequence of tetrapod characters. Here we report a new stem-tetrapod (Tungsenia paradoxa gen. et sp. nov.) from the Lower Devonian (Pragian, ~409 million years ago) of China, which extends the earliest record of tetrapods by some 10 million years. Sharing many primitive features with stem-lungfishes, the new taxon further fills in the morphological gap between tetrapods and lungfishes. The X-ray tomography study of the skull depicts the plesiomorphic condition of the brain in the tetrapods. The enlargement of the cerebral hemispheres and the possible presence of the pars tuberalis in this stem-tetrapod indicate that some important brain modifications related to terrestrial life had occurred at the beginning of the tetrapod evolution, much earlier than previously thought.