Insect consciousness

commitments, conflicts and consequences

Colin Klein, Andrew B. Barron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Our target article, "Insects have the capacity for subjective experience," has provoked a diverse range of commentaries. In this response we have collated what we see as the major themes of the discussion. It is clear that we differ from some commentators in our commitments to what subjective experience is and what the midbrain is capable of. Here we clarify where we stand on those points and how our view differs from some other influential perspectives. The commentaries have highlighted the most lively areas of disagreement. We revisit here the debates surrounding whether the cortex is essential for any form of consciousness in vertebrates, how to interpret interventionist evidence, and whether any specific behavioural criteria can be used to assess the occurrence of consciousness. We recognise that these debates will not be resolved once and for all in this discussion, and we take this opportunity to explore what new forms of experimental evidence might be needed to provide clarity. We emphasise how functional neurobiological analyses in combination with careful behavioural studies of a diverse range of animals will help progress our understanding of how neural circuits can support different forms of behaviour. Ultimately this will help us reach an understanding of how different conscious capacities could be supported by neural systems, and which animals are capable of them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalAnimal sentience
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • subjective experience
  • midbrain
  • hard problem
  • pain

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