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Animals Possess Same Consciousness As Humans: Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness

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A year ago on, July 7, 2012, a prominent international group of cognitive neuroscientists,
neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists and computational neuroscientists
gathered at The University of Cambridge to reassess the neurobiological substrates of conscious
experience and related behaviors in human and non-human animals. While comparative research on
this topic is naturally hampered by the inability of non-human animals, and often humans, to clearly
and readily communicate about their internal states, the following observations can be stated

The field of Consciousness research is rapidly evolving. Abundant new techniques and strategies
for human and non-human animal research have been developed. Consequently, more data is
becoming readily available, and this calls for a periodic reevaluation of previously held
preconceptions in this field. Studies of non-human animals have shown that homologous brain
circuits correlated with conscious experience and perception can be selectively facilitated and
disrupted to assess whether they are in fact necessary for those experiences. Moreover, in
humans, new non-invasive techniques are readily available to survey the correlates of

Representation of consciousness from the seventeenth century.

Credit: Wikipedia

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.

African grey parrot

Credit: Wikipedia

In humans, the effect of certain hallucinogens appears to be associated with a disruption in
cortical feedforward and feedback processing. Pharmacological interventions in non-human
animals with compounds known to affect conscious behavior in humans can lead to similar
perturbations in behavior in non-human animals. In humans, there is evidence to suggest that
awareness is correlated with cortical activity, which does not exclude possible contributions by
subcortical or early cortical processing, as in visual awareness. Evidence that human and nonhuman animal emotional feelings arise from homologous subcortical brain networks provide
compelling evidence for evolutionarily shared primal affective qualia.

We declare the following: “The absence of a neocortex does not appear to preclude an organism from experiencing affective states. Convergent evidence indicates that non-human animals have the
neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with
the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that
humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Nonhuman animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”

Octopus opening container with a screw cap

Credit:  Wikipedia

*The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness was written by Philip Low and edited by Jaak Panksepp, Diana Reiss, David Edelman, Bruno Van  Swinderen, Philip Low and Christof Koch. The Declaration was publicly proclaimed in Cambridge, UK, on July 7, 2012, at the Francis Crick
Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and non-Human Animals, at Churchill College, University of Cambridge, by Low, Edelman and Koch. The Declaration was signed by the conference participants that very evening, in the presence of Stephen Hawking, in the Balfour Room at the Hotel du Vin in Cambridge, UK. The signing ceremony was memorialized by CBS 60 Minutes

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    Total 10 comments
    • CS2012

      It amazes me to think that we didn’t share the same consciousness!?

    • Marika

      Well, this is kind of a “well, DUH” moment, isn’t it? We seem to forget that we ARE animals.

      That said, I’m a mammalian omnivore. :grin:

    • Rumplestilskin

      While I do not think humans are at the top of the evolutionary ladder, I do believe that what you are describing as consciousness may be no more than adaptive synaptic function to a given stimulus. I don’t believe for a moment that animals have consciousness like we do.

      Consciousness I believe had always been described as the knowledge of who you are as an entity, IE; Recognizing self. Scientist have tried and tried to get animals to recognize themselves in mirrors mostly to no avail with simians being the closest in the ability to emulate that human talent.
      I also believe that consciousness is the ability to recognize that it is me thinking about me. Do animals have that talent? And if they do, how would you be able to test that underlying aspect of connectedness, then let alone have the language to communicate such.

      Here again is science trying to equate something they know nothing about to something they believe they can test for. IE: You cannot test humans, for what it means to be human. It’s like trying to pigeon hole something based on faulty assumptions. Then they get out their sledge hammer and try and put that square peg in a round hole. NOT !!!

      • Anonymous

        So you have never OWNED a cat? HAHAHAHAHAH!

      • jimhicks36

        the first time I heard my dog ask to go outside, the hair on the back of my neck stood up.
        the second time he asked to go outside, I opened our back door for him. please search
        for ‘Animal Communicator’. they might offer lessons to use with your pet. love all – jim

    • am123

      This article didn’t do much for me, but my dog thought it was great.

    • Anonymous

      O.K., I see where some creatures might have more commonsense and cognizance(?),and I see where these guys want to give certain animals a break because humans are the worst thing to happen to the planet earth ever, but I maintain that horses are human’s natural enemy, cows will kill you if given the chance, and seagulls will peck your eyeballs out if you stare at a cloud on the beach or at the dump.(hold french fries).Mudfish will still attack your fingers if you dangle them from a canoe after millions of years, Parasites?” They rule us! This science is trying to marry the boob crowd to the nerd crowd. :lol:

    • Anonymous

      Ill believe this when dogs stop eating poop

    • keyoftruth

      Consciousness really has no difference. Most all animals have it. We feel fear sadness happiness guilt. Anyone who couldnt possibly belive that is a complete moron scared that someones dog might be smarter than they are. Most of ours just comes from understanding right from wrong.
      If you left a human being who has been taught nothing, no english not a damn thing. And threw his ass on an island. Now remember no social skills not a hint of our normalcy. And then an alien stumbled upon him they would think. This man has no cognitive ability. Hes an animal. Oh well… Equals

      That analogy is no different than us saying yup. This kitten is retarded. ..
      Or ill shoot thus dog for no reason. shooting that dog equals the same cognitively for me shooting you. You are in pain you are aware you are dying and you are scared. You have a best friend or a family that will notice youre gone. And you are aware of that

    • -kg-

      While the scientists and researches seem to have covered a wide gamut of “animals” in their study, the classification of animal is still too general, and includes other genus not mentioned, and I assume, not included in the test, for reasons that should be obvious. They have neglected to mention (and I assume, to test) the range of microscopic animals, for instance. They ARE, after all, considered animals.

      Considering their diminutive size, it’s not only understandable why these species were not tested, but it begs one to consider whether they have the brain capacity and structure for ‘consciousness’ as defined by and tested for during the study. I surmise they do not, though I am neither educated in the field, nor qualified to make such an assertion.

      There are other species that were not mentioned, and undoubtedly not tested, due to their extreme numbers and the lack of time to test them all. Is an earthworm conscious? Can that be tested with the methods defined by the study? Are they defining “consciousness” by the correct terms?

      I agree with Rumple in his assessment. I, too, have always considered “self-awareness” as the proper definition of “consciousness.” Though there may be a few within the classification of “animal” that meet that criteria, it has yet to be proven, and difficult to ascertain.

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