What do Neuronal Network Models of the Mind Indicate about Animal Consciousness?
The attempt to provide a firm scientific basis for understanding consciousness is now in full swing, with special contributions from two areas. One is experimental: brain imaging is providing ever increasing detail of the brain structures used by humans (and other animals) as they solve a variety of tasks, including those of higher cognition. The other is theoretical: the discipline of neural networks is allowing models of these cognitive processes to be constructed and tested against the available data. In particular, a control framework can be created to give a global view of the brain. The highest cognitive process, that of consciousness, is naturally a target for such experimentation and modelling. This paper reviews available data and related models leading to the central representation, which involves particular brain regions and functional processing. Principles of consciousness, which have great relevance to the question in the title, are thereby deduced. The requisite neuronal systems needed to provide animal experience, and the problem of assessing the quality and quantity of such experience, will then be considered. In conclusion, animal consciousness is seen to exist broadly across those species with the requisite control structures; the level of pain and other sensations depends in an increasingly well-defined manner on the complexity of the cerebral apparatus.
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