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On the Development of Painful Experience

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The overwhelming majority of commentary on fetal pain has looked at the maturation of cortical pathways to decide a lower age limit for fetal pain. This approach assumes pain can be felt directly from neural activation and ignores psychological development. Here we propose that neural activation is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for phenomenological experience, including pain. Isolated neural activation is just one physical fact amongst an infinity of physical facts that requires order or structure to be isolated and experienced. A new theoretical approach is necessary to understand essential phenomenological experience. We conjecture that infant caregiver interaction provides the necessary order or structure so that the infant can isolate fundamental sense experiences (qualia) delivered by neural activity. Cortical structures provide the necessary neural basis for qualia but qualia are revealed as phenomenological only as the infant becomes a subjective self.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Birmingham, School of Psychology, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT., Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2011


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