Animal consciousness

consciousnessThe quest for animal consciousness Andrea Nani, Clare Eddy & Andrea Cavanna, Universities of Turin, Birmingham and UCL

Journal of Cosmology, 2011, Vol. 14

The most interesting aspect of this paper is the reference to studies demonstrating that only sensory information that is reported as conscious in humans is able to activate brain regions dealing with executive functions.

Studies of neural activity indicate an overlap between human and animal activity. Studies in many species suggest that some behaviours cannot be explained simply by stimulus and response. In humans there is a marked difference between the EEGs of conscious and unconscious subjects. Conscious activity is particularly associated with the approx. 20-70 Hz gamma synchrony. The distinctive EEGs as between waking states, and states regarded as unconscious in humans is also apparent in all mammals that have been studied in this respect. Conscious activity in humans correlates with specific interactions between the thalamus and the cortex, which are also found in animals. The thalamocortical system appeared mainly in mammals about 100 million years ago. Birds possess functionally comparable structures. The tendency for consciousness to be related to widespread activity in the brain is also found in animals performing functions that are correlated to consciousness in humans.

Studies (Frackowiak, 2004) shows that in humans only sensory information that is reported as conscious activates the executive regions of the brain. The dorsolateral prefrontal is normally seen as the most important region of the brain in this respect. This implies that consciousness has an essential functional role in the human brain, and something similar is likely to arise in other mammals given their similar brains. Studies of animal behaviour produces instances of where they have to form simple executive plans, or have anticipated the likely future location of objects.

 

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