Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling

Commentary Type

Invited Commentary


Brian Key, Why fish do not feel pain


Neural and behavioral evidence from diverse species indicates that some forms of pain may be generated by coordinated activity in networks far smaller than the cortical pain matrix in mammals. Studies on responses to injury in squid suggest that simplification of the circuitry necessary for conscious pain might be achieved by restricting awareness to very limited information about a noxious event, possibly only to the fact that injury has occurred, ignoring information that is much less important for survival, such as the location of the injury. Some of the neural properties proposed to be critical for conscious pain in mammals are also found in the nervous systems of numerous species, including invertebrates. These considerations suggest that simple forms of pain might be present in some animals that lack large brains and complex behaviors.

Author Biography

Edgar T. Walters Edgar.T.Walters@uth.tmc.edu is Professor of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology and holder of the Fondren Chair in Cellular Signaling at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. His research has focused on long-term alterations of neural and behavioral responses to peripheral injury in molluscs (Aplysia and squid), on mechanisms of chronic pain induced by spinal cord injury in rodents, and on understanding the evolution of pain-related mechanisms. https://med.uth.edu/ibp/faculty/edgar-t-walters/