Corvid consciousness – computation, cognition, or comprehension?


Corvid consciousness – computation, cognition, or comprehension?

By Kevin Mitchell – 

really nice paper came out recently that claims to

have discovered a neural correlate of sensory consciousness in a corvid bird (the carrion crow). The authors use an elegant set up involving barely perceptible visual stimuli to distinguish the delivery of a stimulus and the subjective percept that it engenders. The experiment clearly demonstrates that crows can maintain an internal representation for a period of time before taking an action based on a rule that is subsequently presented to them. This kind of task has been used in primates to distinguish what happens in the brain when an animal consciously detects a stimulus versus when it doesn’t. But is this really a correlate of conscious subjective experience or simply a marker of ongoing neural activity that mediates working memory? What do we even mean by conscious subjective experience? Does maintaining an active neural state necessarily entail a mental state?

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Corvid consciousness – computation, cognition, or comprehension?