Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryAnimal mind

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EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND  Bobby a Skye Terrier monument

Can Myths About Dogs Give Us a Clue re Their Origins?

A French historian studies the relationship between ancient stories told about dogs and information from genetics and archeology

Just how and when dogs originated has been the subject of much research. In one account, “Dogs originated from wolves domesticated in Europe, 19,000-32,000 years ago,” based on DNA studies (2013). But other research points to many other possibilities: “Central Asia, the Middle East, South Asia or Southeast Asia” some time between 10,000 and 38,000 years ago. Some think they were tamed twice. Historian Julien d’Huy of the College of France in Paris suggests another approach, looking at stories about dogs: “With mythology, we can have explanations of archaeology, we can have reasons for domestication, we can test hypotheses,” he says. D’Huy found three core storylines for the earliest myths related to dogs: The first links dogs with the afterlife,…

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The little chimpanzee monkey put his human friend's hand on his head, hugged him. made a grimace. Sits in a green stroller, wearing blue shorts. Walk down the street. in the background palms,

Researchers Find More Ways That Human and Ape Brains Differ

Underlying the significant differences in brain — to say nothing of the vast difference in mind — is a genetic mystery…

Yale University researchers have identified more specific ways the human brain differs from the brains of all other primates. Using “hundreds of thousands of cells collected from the dlPFC of adult humans, chimpanzees, macaque, and marmoset monkeys,” they found After grouping cells with similar expression profiles they revealed 109 shared primate cell types but also five that were not common to all species. These included a type of microglia, or brain-specific immune cell, that was present only in humans and a second type shared by only humans and chimpanzees. The human-specific microglia type exists throughout development and adulthood, the researchers found, suggesting the cells play a role in maintenance of the brain upkeep rather than combatting disease… An analysis of…

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Woman in bedroom terrified by big spider crawling over her bed

Should Spider Dreaming Really Give Us “Ethical Pause”?

The incidental discovery of REM sleep in spiders is morphing into vast claims that we have “urgent and inexorable ethical obligations” to them and other life forms

Anyone familiar with the current “animal consciousness” scene might have seen this one coming. At The Scientist, we learned earlier this month that animals dream, according to researcher David M. Peña-Guzmán. Recently, it was spiders that were found to dream. Therefore, it is now implied, human and animal consciousness do not differ very much: In When Animals Dream, I argue that the mere fact that animals dream poses a formidable challenge to that bastion of traditionalism that is the human-animal divide, raising provocative ethical questions about the status of animals as moral subjects toward whom we have urgent and inexorable ethical obligations. This fact also frustrates the common view that only humans are “cognitively free” because only we can liberate…

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Man and dog

Study: Dogs Cry for Joy as Well as Pain

Recent research has focused on how dogs respond to the world they share with us

A recent study looked at dogs reuniting with their human friends: When a person is overcome with emotion, their feelings stream down their cheeks. Even positive emotions can turn on the waterworks, as people bawl when they win awards, express love for their partners, or are reunited with a long-lost friend. But these feelings-driven tears may not be a wholly human experience. Dogs can also cry happy tears, according to a study published today (August 22) in Current Biology. Although the animals’ eyes don’t overflow, they well up when they’re reunited with their owners after spending even just hours apart, the researchers found. And they have hunch as to why: a sudden increase in oxytocin, the so-called love hormone, named…

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A brazilian wandering spider (Phoneutria sp.) waits in ambush on a leaf at night in Costa Rica.

Can Life Forms Like Spiders, That Lack a Neocortex, Really Dream?

Paleontologist Günter Bechly argues that it’s highly unlikely. Michael Egnor sides with Aristotle; they dream about what they can perceive

Recently, paleontologist Günter Bechly took issue with neurosurgeon Michael Egnor on the question of whether spiders dream. Egnor was willing to accept the possibility, noting that spiders can dream only about things they can think about: “If spiders and bacteria dream, they dream of flies or chemical gradients, but not of philosophy.” Bechly, on the other hand, thinks it’s a filament too far for the spider (never mind the bacteria) to dream at all: … I tend to concur with those neuroscientists who doubt any organisms possess phenomenal consciousness that lack a neocortex (found only in mammals) or a comparable structure (in birds and maybe cephalopods). Rapid eye movement may indicate neural activity, but the concept of dreaming for me…

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coconut octopus underwater macro portrait on sand

Octopuses Create an “Origin of Intelligence” Conundrum

Outstandingly bright — with eyes that strikingly resemble ours — yet their ancestors split from mammals and birds 600 million years ago…

In a recent book excerpt at Nautilus, James Bridle, author of Ways of Being: Beyond Human Intelligence (2022), reflects on the fact that “Octopus brains are nothing like ours—yet we have much in common.” Like many authors, he reflects on the cephalopod’s extraordinary intelligence, for example, Otto, an octopus living in the Sea-Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, first attracted media attention when he was caught juggling hermit crabs. Another time he smashed rocks against the side of his tank, and from time to time would completely rearrange the contents of his tank “to make it suit his own taste better,” according to the aquarium’s director. One time, the electricity in the aquarium kept shorting out, which threatened the lives of…

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The girl hugs the basenji dog.

Animal Mind — Can You Clone Your Beloved Pet’s Personality?

People who can charge a great deal for cloning insist that the personality is not cloned… so why do it?

Michael Egnor has noted that the famous philosopher René Descartes (1596–1650) thought that animals were biological machines that did not have minds at all. Many arguments can be mustered against that view but the recent development of animal cloning may prove a new one. Barbra Streisand brought attention to the business of cloning deceased pets when she had her dog Samantha cloned in 2018 (though the process had been available for more than a decade). The cost? US$35,000 for a cat, $50,000 for a dog, and $85,000 for a horse. That’s hardly spare change yet, we are told, some less well-heeled folk will put off a new car or down payment to bring back a deceased companion: Kelly Anderson never…