Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


The response to pain involves a non-conscious, reflexive action and a conscious perception. According to Key (2016), consciousness — and thus pain perception — depends on a neuronal correlate that has a “unique neural architecture” as realized in the human cortex. On the basis of the “bioengineering principle that structure determines function,” Key (2016) concludes that animal species such as fish, which lack the requisite cortex-like neuroanatomical structure, are unable to feel pain. This commentary argues that the relationship between brain structure and brain function is less straightforward than suggested in Key’s target article.

Author Biography

Helmut Segner helmut.segner@vetsuisse.unibe.ch is Professor and Head of the Centre for Fish and Wildlife Health, University of Bern, Switzerland. His research topics include fish toxicology and fish pathology. http://www.itpa.vetsuisse.unibe.ch/fiwi