Nature & Environment
New study claims that insects are conscious
By T.K. Randall
April 27, 2016 · 22 comments
How do insects perceive the world ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Mark Winterbourne
Scientists now believe that conscious awareness and subjective experience may be common in insects.
The notion that insects possess only a rudimentary perception of the world might soon be set to change thanks to a major new research paper published by scientists at Macquarie University.
The results of the study suggest that insects are not only conscious but also exhibit egocentric behavior - something that may have arisen over 500 million years ago in the Cambrian Period.
"When you and I are hungry, we don't just move towards food; our hunger also has a particular feeling associated with it," said study co-author and philosopher Dr Colin Klein.
"An organism has subjective experience if its mental states feel like something when they happen."
The researchers focused their studies on the midbrain, a part of the brain that supports awareness and which appears to function in a similar manner in insects as it does in humans.
That is not to say however that an insect's conscious experiences will be the same as our own.
"Their experience of the world is not as rich or as detailed as our experience – our big neocortex adds something to life !" the scientists wrote. "But it still feels like something to be a bee."
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