Tuesday, September 25, 2012
From The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness
* The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact,
subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically
important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain
regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human
animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviors in non-human
animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including
those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems
in humans can also generate similar affective states. Systems associated with affect are
concentrated in subcortical regions where neural homologies abound. Young human and nonhuman animals without neocortices retain these brain-mind functions. Furthermore, neural
circuits supporting behavioral/electrophysiological states of attentiveness, sleep and decision
making appear to have arisen in evolution as early as the invertebrate radiation, being evident in
insects and cephalopod mollusks (e.g., octopus).
* Birds appear to offer, in their behavior, neurophysiology, and neuroanatomy a striking case of
parallel evolution of consciousness. Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has
been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional
networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously
thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns
similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches,
neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in particular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.
I'll still be eating chicken tonight, but it wouldn't surprise me if this kind of research doesn't eventually lead to changes in how we treat, for example, our industrial animals. Also, though octopus made the cut, so far no reptiles are on the Cambridge list, although I think any Monitor or Boa owner will tell you that their pets can also feel and engage in "intentional" acts.
A bit more on the broader implications here.