There are no known differences in brain mechanisms of consciousness between humans and other mammals

Baars, Bernard J. (2000) There are no known differences in brain mechanisms of consciousness between humans and other mammals. [Journal (Paginated)] (In Press)

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Recent scientific findings indicate that consciousness is a fundamental biological adaptation. The known brain correlates of consciousness appear to be ancient phylogenetically, going back at least to early mammals. In all mammals alertness and sensory consciousness are required for the goal-directed behaviors that make species survival and reproduction possible. In all mammals the anatomy, physiology, neurochemistry and electrical activity of the brain in alert states shows striking similarities. After more than seven decades of cumulative discoveries about waking and sensory consciousness, we have not yet found fundamental differences between humans and other mammals. Species differences such as the size of neocortex seem to be irrelevant to the existence of alertness and sensory consciousness, though different mammals obviously specialize in different of kinds of sensory, cognitive and motor abilities. Skeptics sometimes claim that objective evidence for consciousness tells us little about subjective experience, such as the experience of conscious pain. Scientifically, however, plausible inferences are routinely based on reliable and consistent patterns of evidence. In other humans we invariably infer subjective experiences from objective behavioral and brain evidence --- if someone yells Ouch! after striking a finger with a hammer, we infer that they feel pain. The brain and behavioral evidence for subjective consciousness is essentially identical in humans and other mammals. On the weight of the objective evidence, therefore, subjective experience would seem to be equally plausible in all species with humanlike brains and behavior. Either we deny it to other humans (which is rarely done), or, to be consistent, we must also attribute it to other species that meet the same objective standards. It seems that the burden of proof for the absence of subjectivity in mammals should be placed on the skeptics.

Item Type:Journal (Paginated)
Keywords:animal consciousness, phylogeny of conscious functions, objective indices of consciousness, neuroanatomy of consciousness, neurochemistry of consciousness, neurophysiology of consciousness
Subjects:Psychology > Comparative Psychology
ID Code:912
Deposited By: Baars, Bernard J.
Deposited On:13 Aug 2000
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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