Abstract: Only humans can report feeling pain. In contrast, pain in animals is typically inferred on the basis of nonverbal behaviour. Unfortunately, these behavioural data can be problematic when the reliability and validity of the behavioural tests are questionable. The thesis proposed here is based on the bioengineering principle that structure determines function. Basic functional homologies can be mapped to structural homologies across a broad spectrum of vertebrate species. For example, olfaction depends on olfactory glomeruli in the olfactory bulbs of the forebrain, visual orientation responses depend on the laminated optic tectum in the midbrain, and locomotion depends on pattern generators in the spinal cord throughout vertebrate phylogeny, from fish to humans. Here I delineate the region of the human brain that is directly responsible for feeling painful stimuli. The principal structural features of this region are identified and then used as biomarkers to infer whether fish are, at least, anatomically capable of feeling pain. Using this strategy, I conclude that fish lack the necessary neurocytoarchitecture, microcircuitry, and structural connectivity for the neural processing required for feeling pain.
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