It is only in recent decades that subjective experience - or consciousness - has become a legitimate object of scientific inquiry. As such, it represents perhaps the greatest challenge facing neuroscience today. Subsumed within this challenge is the study of subjective experience in non-human animals: a particularly difficult endeavor that becomes even more so, as one crosses the great evolutionary divide between vertebrate and invertebrate phyla. Here, we explore the possibility of consciousness in one group of invertebrates: cephalopod molluscs. We believe such a review is timely, particularly considering cephalopods' impressive learning and memory abilities, rich behavioral repertoire, and the relative complexity of their nervous systems and sensory capabilities. Indeed, in some cephalopods, these abilities are so sophisticated that they are comparable to those of some higher vertebrates. Following the criteria and framework outlined for the identification of hallmarks of consciousness in non-mammalian species, here we propose that cephalopods - particularly the octopus - provide a unique test case among invertebrates for examining the properties and conditions that, at the very least, afford a basal faculty of consciousness. These include, among others: (i) discriminatory and anticipatory behaviors indicating a strong link between perception and memory recall; (ii) the presence of neural substrates representing functional analogs of thalamus and cortex; (iii) the neurophysiological dynamics resembling the functional signatures of conscious states in mammals. We highlight the current lack of evidence as well as potentially informative areas that warrant further investigation to support the view expressed here. Finally, we identify future research directions for the study of consciousness in these tantalizing animals.

Cephalopod Behavior: From Neural Plasticity to Consciousness

Chiandetti C.;Fiorito G.
2022-01-01

Abstract

It is only in recent decades that subjective experience - or consciousness - has become a legitimate object of scientific inquiry. As such, it represents perhaps the greatest challenge facing neuroscience today. Subsumed within this challenge is the study of subjective experience in non-human animals: a particularly difficult endeavor that becomes even more so, as one crosses the great evolutionary divide between vertebrate and invertebrate phyla. Here, we explore the possibility of consciousness in one group of invertebrates: cephalopod molluscs. We believe such a review is timely, particularly considering cephalopods' impressive learning and memory abilities, rich behavioral repertoire, and the relative complexity of their nervous systems and sensory capabilities. Indeed, in some cephalopods, these abilities are so sophisticated that they are comparable to those of some higher vertebrates. Following the criteria and framework outlined for the identification of hallmarks of consciousness in non-mammalian species, here we propose that cephalopods - particularly the octopus - provide a unique test case among invertebrates for examining the properties and conditions that, at the very least, afford a basal faculty of consciousness. These include, among others: (i) discriminatory and anticipatory behaviors indicating a strong link between perception and memory recall; (ii) the presence of neural substrates representing functional analogs of thalamus and cortex; (iii) the neurophysiological dynamics resembling the functional signatures of conscious states in mammals. We highlight the current lack of evidence as well as potentially informative areas that warrant further investigation to support the view expressed here. Finally, we identify future research directions for the study of consciousness in these tantalizing animals.
File in questo prodotto:
File Dimensione Formato  
Ponte_etal22FRONTIERS-SYST-NEUROSCI.pdf

accesso aperto

Tipologia: Documento in Versione Editoriale
Licenza: Creative commons
Dimensione 687.48 kB
Formato Adobe PDF
687.48 kB Adobe PDF Visualizza/Apri
Pubblicazioni consigliate

I documenti in IRIS sono protetti da copyright e tutti i diritti sono riservati, salvo diversa indicazione.

Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11368/3020935
Citazioni
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.pmc??? 6
  • Scopus 13
  • ???jsp.display-item.citation.isi??? 13
social impact