Friday, July 12, 2013

Tutorial A1: Droege

Friday July 12 13:00-16:00

A1: Investigating animal pain and consciousness

Paula Droege (Dep't of Philosophy, Pennsylvania State University) & Victoria Braithwaite (Dep’t of Fisheries and Biology, Pennsylvania State University)

Neuroscientists have been making remarkable progress in identifying candidates for the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) in humans. Through careful investigation of conscious and unconscious processes, the role of thalamocortical circuits and information integration in the production of consciousness is becoming clearer. But what about non-human animals? How can we apply the advances in consciousness research to animals (e.g. fish, cephalopods) that share few if any human physical and functional structures? The capacity to represent the current environment in contrast to the past and future is essential for consciousness and marks an important development in cognitive skill. We suggest this capacity for temporal representation can bring together physiological and behavioral evidence to help determine which animals are conscious and which are not.

The tutorial will begin with a discussion of the problems and prospects for research on animal consciousness, considering such questions as: Is nociception sufficient for pain? What is the relation between consciousness and self-consciousness? Then we will review several research paradigms designed to assess consciousness in animals. One important question here is: When is an explanation in terms of higher-level processes such as consciousness and cognition simpler than an explanation in terms of associative conditioning?

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