Subjective experience is probably not limited to humans: The evidence from neurobiology and behavior

Document Type: 
Article
Article Type: 
Theoretical
Disciplines: 
Neuroscience
Topics: 
Animal Cognition
Keywords: 
subjectivity, consciousness, animal consciousness
Date of Issue: 
2005
Authors: 
Bernard J. Baars
Journal/Publication Title: 
Consciousness and Cognition
Volume: 
14
Page Range: 
7-21
Official URL: 
http://ccrg.cs.memphis.edu/assets/papers/2005/Baars-Subjective%20animals-2005.pdf
Publish status: 
Published
Abstract: 
In humans, conscious perception and cognition depends upon the thalamocortical (T-C) complex, which supports perception, explicit cognition, memory, language, planning, and strategic control. When parts of the T-C system are damaged or stimulated, corresponding effects are found on conscious contents and state, as assessed by reliable reports. In contrast, large regions like cerebellum and basal ganglia can be damaged without affecting conscious cognition directly. Functional brain recordings also show robust activity differ- ences in cortex between experimentally matched conscious and unconscious events. This basic anatomy and physiology is highly conserved in mammals and perhaps ancestral reptiles. While language is absent in other species, homologies in perception, memory, and motor cortex suggest that consciousness of one kind or another may be biologically fundamental and phylogenetically ancient. In humans we infer subjective experiences from behavioral and brain evidence. This evidence is quite similar in other mammals and perhaps some non-mammalian species. On the weight of the biological evidence, therefore, subjectivity may be conserved in species with human-like brains and behavior.
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