someone's studying cephalopod consciousness

monty

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This seminar announcement for a talk at Caltech sounds interesting:

http://today.caltech.edu/eas/item?calendar_id=77467&template=cns

Computation and Neural Systems Seminar
Monday January 14, 2008
4:00 PM
24 Beckman Labs

The Structural and Functional Frontiers of Awareness
David Edelman, The Neurosciences Institute, San Diego

Description/Abstract:
There has been a recent resurgence of interest in the study of human consciousness. At the same time, there is a growing realization that very little is known about the basis of non-human animal consciousness and precisely what properties—if any—distinguish it from human consciousness. Understandably, most investigations of human consciousness have relied upon “accurate reports,” given by healthy or brain-damaged individuals, of what they experienced during experimental trials. However, in the case of non-human animals without a natural language, the problem of assessing consciousness becomes formidable. But now, with recent advances in functional neuro-imaging, neurophysiology, and genetics, it may be possible to investigate conscious states across non-human species systematically and substantively. Moreover, with the recognition of avian homologues to mammalian neural structure and function, as well as technical advances in invertebrate neurophysiological techniques, explorations of consciousness need not be confined to mammalian species. In this lecture, I will discuss relevant findings from studies of a wide range of species, including birds and cephalopod molluscs, and present a variety of criteria and properties of consciousness that might be assessed across such a divergent group of animals.

I'll report more after I go listen, but I figured it's interesting that the modern "trendy neuroscience" studies of "consciousness" have started to study cephs. This is particularly interesting since much of the brain parts that describe mammal consciousness don't even exist in cephalopods, so it sounds marvelous from a perspective of understanding convergent evolution, and common characters in diverse brains that serve the same function, etc.
 
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monty;108117 said:
This seminar announcement for a This is particularly interesting since much of the brain parts that describe mammal consciousness don't even exist in cephalopods, so it sounds marvelous from a perspective of understanding convergent evolution, and common characters in diverse brains that serve the same function, etc.

Convergent evolution to what other animal?
-Yes,this could be very interesting,please do keep us updated.

Though,it may be to complicated for me.I'm still wrestling with the idea of Crocodiles having a cerebral cortex and a four chambered heart,unlike every other reptile.
-Cephalopod intelligence is on another level understanding
 

monty

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scottwolverine1;108133 said:
Convergent evolution to what other animal?
-Yes,this could be very interesting,please do keep us updated.

Though,it may be to complicated for me.I'm still wrestling with the idea of Crocodiles having a cerebral cortex and a four chambered heart,unlike every other reptile.
-Cephalopod intelligence is on another level understanding

I was thinking convergent evolution of cephalopods and vertebrates in general. Arguably, arthropods and worms and snails might have "consciousness" of a sort, but even within the molluscs, cephalopod nervous (and circulatory) systems are much more sophisticated than any other mollusc, and presumably the last common ancestor with vertebrates or arthropods was some flatworm-like thing with a very limited behavioral repertoire, so any sophisticated behavior, consciousness, or intelligence, or even brain anatomy that cephalopods share with vertebrates is convergent evolution... and when the anatomy is extremely different yet the function is the same (learning, deciding, perceiving, communicating, or consciousness) cephalopods are a great, and in many case unique, example of a different nervous system layout providing somewhat similar behaviors and abilities to vertebrates. Most neuroscience talks about cortex, and hippocampus, and sometimes cerebellum and spinal reflexes, all of which are completely absent in cephalopods, and while there might be some very rough correspondence (the visual lobes might play a role sort of like visual cortex, and the vertical lobes seem involved in learning and memory, so maybe they could be considered homologous with the hippocampus) in most ways, cephalopod brains have developed from different roots, although, of course, they've had to compete with vertebrates for quite a while, so they've had pressure to develop systems that can overcome vertebrate (and crustacean) predators and prey.

And it's always amazing to me how some pre-cambrian proto-metazoan locked in a lot of the body-plan and cell-differentiation types that are used in all eumetazoans (and probably all metazoans, but I don't know that much about sponges) and often single-celled eukaryotes and even bacteria... so one can probably assume that the first primitive mollusc got a whole lot of stuff inherited from far earlier, before the protostome/deuterostome split for sure... that's (presumably) why we can study squid giant axons' ion channels, and squid and fruit fly and sea urchin homeobox genes, and octopus visual pigments, and find that they're identical, or almost identical, to the ones used in vertebrates.
 
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monty;108134 said:
I was thinking convergent evolution of cephalopods and vertebrates in general. Arguably, arthropods and worms and snails might have "consciousness" of a sort, but even within the molluscs, cephalopod nervous (and circulatory) systems are much more sophisticated than any other mollusc, and presumably the last common ancestor with vertebrates or arthropods was some flatworm-like thing with a very limited behavioral repertoire.....
... in most ways, cephalopod brains have developed from different roots, although, of course, they've had to compete with vertebrates for quite a while, so they've had pressure to develop systems that can overcome vertebrate (and crustacean) predators and prey.

1)Convergent evolution.
-Thanks for explaining that,it makes more sense now.

2)Intelligence at the basic level
-There was a show called "human version 2.0" that came on the science channel that was interesting.It (kind of) relates some of the finds mentioned involving basic neural networks to neuronal/brain functions of lower order organisms.

Flat worms?
-I remember my freshman (anatomy and physiology) professor mentioning that one could grind up "trained" flatworms and feed them to untrained ones and they somehow "remembered" how to transverse the maze better.
-That was years ago,I never followed up on that one.

4)You said....."so they've had pressure to develop systems that can overcome vertebrate (and crustacean) predators and prey".
This is off topic a little,but you might find this interesting.

From that book {The Ocean World}...Octopus-lobster-moray eel are three couples with built in animosities.Mediterranean fishermen tell stories of traps that they pull back to their boats,sometimes containing an octopus,a lobster,and a moray eel:the three retreat to the three corner of the trap as far from the other as possible,because they know the first one to attack will be immediately killed by the third party.

I wish I had a deeper understanding of A+P to comment more on your reply.
 

Tintenfisch

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scottwolverine1;108137 said:
-I remember my freshman (anatomy and physiology) professor mentioning that one could grind up "trained" flatworms and feed them to untrained ones and they somehow "remembered" how to transverse the maze better.

:yuck:
 

monty

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Well, whenever I grind up the people my assistant Igor brings me and try eating them, I just get the villagers chasing me out with those wooden pitchfork things, and the occasional case of kuru.

Actually, I'm pretty much kidding on that, but I heard about the "grind up planarians to pass knowledge" thing in High School, but I don't remember learning about it in neurobiology or comparative nervous systems classes I took in college.

This page has some suggestions that the experiment may have been flawed in a number of ways, but also mentions some followup results. I'm pretty dubious, since RNA hasn't been implicated in memory in any way I'm aware of in "real neuroscience" and I'm not clear on the proposed mechanism... I'm not too knowledgeable on the digestive systems of flatworms, but in vertebrates or cephalopods, I wouldn't expect neural tissue or RNA to survive the digestive processes intact enough to convey any information.

p.s. the lobster/eel/octopus thing is pretty interesting... kinda "rock-paper-scissors" or "the good, the bad, and the ugly" final gunfight. With no shelter in a closed space, I'd have to lay odds on the eel, the octopus, and the lobster in that order, as much as I'd be cheering for the octopus...
 

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Interesting, I am very in hearing how this goes. With the wide variety of non-human explorations of consciousness he is refering to, I wonder if the cephalopod consciousness work is his own or if he is citing the work of Dr. Jennifer Mather. I attended a lecture by her a couple years ago entitled "To bodly go where no mollusk has gone before: personalities, play and consciousness in cephalopods", which was very interesting. This year she published in Consciousness and Cognition and article entitled "Cephalopod consciousness: Behavioural evidence." (abstract can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?db=pubmed&uid=17240163&cmd=showdetailview&indexed=google)

Oh, and:
monty;108134 said:
cephalopod nervous (and circulatory) systems are much more sophisticated than any other mollusc.

Thanks monty for giving a nod to the circulo-respiratory physiology side of cephs. Its' incredible features are often is lost in all the talk about their behavior, which I must admit, it a much more sexy area of their biology.
 

monty

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Hmm, where to start... this was a very fascinating talk. The part related to cephalopods did not have too much new detail I was unaware of, but was a fantastic introduction to the capabilities and style of the ceph nervous system, and why it these are great animals to study to as a comparative consciousness study, and it seemed to get the attention of a lot of the neuroscientists who attended. I spoke briefly with the speaker, David Edelman, afterwards, but since he had a lot of real neuroscientists waiting to talk to him, I said I'd follow up with him later by email. He was well aware of TONMO, and gave some high praise, and I encouraged him to stop by and participate. (That being said, I'm all nervous about trying to do his wonderful talk justice in this summary-- I tried to take good notes, but some of the slides went by pretty fast... I saw hallucigenia there, who can perhaps correct any gaffs or omissions, hint hint.)

The talk covered a number of interesting areas, starting with a brief discussion of "what is consciousness" (a popular topic around Caltech, since it's a favorite topic of Christof Koch) and the history of that question. Behaviorists like Skinner have guided neuroethology and the like away from asking questions about things like "mind" and "consciousness," so for a lot of the 20th century it was more studied by philosophers than neuroscientists. There also have been serious technical hurdles on the subject, since it's hard to measure, describe, monitor, and so forth. Much of what modern studies of consciousness have been based on in humans is their own reports of what they're subjectively experiencing about their state of mind ("metacognition"), which, of course, can't be done with most non-human animals (with the possible exception of great apes like Koko and the late Alex the parrot.)

He had a slide of a long list of things related to consciousness that I didn't fully copy, but they range from purely subjective to very physiological but rather primate-oriented (the reference is Seth et. al. 2005 Consciousness & Cognition 14:119-139, where Edelman is part of et.al., I'm going to see if I can download that one shortly.) We understand some of the parts of the brain, like cortex and thalamus, that seem to be involved in human consciousness, but we see what appears to be consciousness in animals that don't have those brain parts at all.

Consciousness seems to involve the ability to integrate multiple modalities of sensory input with memory, learning, and behavior, and the sorts of things that he thinks we should be looking for as general mechanisms for consciousness include this cross-modal sensory input, feed forward signaling across the cortex (or the equivalent part) and "reentrant signaling." It also seems that consciousness often involves regional long-term potentiation as a form of memory, and widespread, fast, low-amplitude electrical activity in the brain, which is sort of a fancy way of saying "thinking and memory of what was thought" if I understand it correctly. In any case, he believes we should be looking for analogs of the mammal thalamocortical system in other animals, such as birds and cephalopods.

He also touched on some ecological aspects that I'll mention since I can look clever for mentioning some in my post before the talk :roll: -- a heterogeneous ecology, predator/prey arms races, and hierarchical social ecologies all seem to be ecological pressures to develop consciousness. He also noted that octopuses are interesting in that last one, in that they are generally solitary and don't communicate so much with others of their own species.

The next part of the talk discussed various animals that have been studied: vocal learning has been shown in marine mammals (both cetaceans and pinnipeds), birds, and bats, and manual learning (like sign language) has been shown in primates. There was then a history of trained primates, like Koko the signing gorilla and Alex the parrot, which I'll skip the details of.

Then he mentioned that animals with "simpler" nervous systems show quite sophisticated behaviors, mentioning fruit flies, bees, jumping spiders, and octos-- I'm sure Roy would encourage him to add stomatopods to the list, too. He also discussed some robots that could do things like play soccer or navigate mazes with thousands of neurons and millions of connections, which sounds like a lot but is far less than are present in all but the simplest animals... in particular, the maze-solving "Darwin Machine" robot has its nervous system connectivity modeled roughly on the hippocampus.

The next section was about birds, with some emphasis on ravens, which show some rather sophisticate behavior like solving puzzles involving pulleys and ropes to get their food, and keeping track of which other ravens may have seen where they stashed their food and which ones haven't, which they use to decide how to defend their hidden snacks ("I can't let that guy get close; he knows where I hid my lunch!") which is surprising in that it suggests the raven has an idea of what the other raven is thinking.
(The reference for the Raven stuff is Scientific American, 2007, Heinrich & Bugnyar preview here and a book by Heinrich.)

To me, although the bird part was interesting, one of the observations made it less so than for cephs: although bird brains look anatomically somewhat different than mammal brains, when one studies the homeotic gene expression in their development, it suggests that there are a lot of homologies between parts of bird brains and parts of mammal brains that seem to have the same function, suggesting that their original form, including primitive consciousness, were probably common in a shared ancestor.

There was a bit of discussion of Alex the parrot, too.

Then, finally, on to the cephalopods!

He mentioned a number of the "classic" results, including J.Z. Young, Wells, and such, and discussed the recent work on the shoulders of those giants by Fiorito & Chichery and Hochner. He has been working with Fiorito in particular, it would appear, and he also had quite a number of excellent videos from Hanlon, several of which I hadn't seen before. There's also a video from Fiorito I'd love to track down of an octo doing the classic "crab in a plexiglass box" trick but with the twist that there are 3 lids it could unscrew, but only one opens (and one with no crab, where the octo decides to open it and check anyway, not trusting its eyesight, cause the researcher wouldn't be so mean is to give the box without a crab, would they?)

Several of the interesting studies mentioned, some of which we've discussed before around TONMO, include Hochner's studies of arm behavior (including amputated arms :sad:) and using the bend of an "elbow" to "reel in" prey captured at the tip (I didn't know that the bend is generally at the same place even in a severed arm, suggesting the decision is made in the arm's nervous system more than the brain.)

Also, Fiorito has now apparently developed a technique for neural recording from an electrode in the brain of a free-swimming octopus, and has found some interesting results there: a brain region that may be a hippocampus analog (I think it was in or next to the vertical lobe, but I need to look it up) and that there are single sites in the brain that respond to multiple tactile sites for stimulating the octo's body (like poking it), and that electrically stimulating brain regions can elicit a lot of behaviors-- primitive stuff compared to mammal electrophysiology, but starting to get on the right track of reproducing what's been done in fish and mammals. So far, there's no evidence that octos have a somatoropic map the way that mammal motor and somatosensory coretex works, but that might be more because we don't know what we're looking at than because it's not there (in fact, it's hard to imagine how a cuttlefish could map its visual world onto its chromatophores without a map from the optic lobes a somatotropic map on the cromatophore lobes.)

Apparently, there is also a laminar (layered) organization to the vertical lobes that might be similar to that in mammal cortex in some ways, and the connectivity around there is similar to the thalamus and cortex (and maybe hippocampus?) in mammals in some ways. Also, Fiorito has found long-term potentiation, an important building block of memory and learning in mammals, in the vertical lobes of octopus in vitro, in prepared slices. There is some evidence that this is convergent evolution rather than something present in the shared ancestor, since it's physiologically similar, but biochemically isn't NMDA-dependent as it is in vertebrates (essentially, it's doing the same thing but with different chemicals.)
(cont)
 

monty

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talk description continued

(continued from above-- it was too long)


He then moved on to the chromatophore system, where he appears to have been talking with Dr. Hanlon a bit... I learned that the chromatophore system involves Glutamate and 5HT (Serotonin) as neurotransmitters, both of which are found in the nervous systems of all (or almost all) animals that have nervous systems. He proposed a challenge of cephalopod psychophysics to look for hallmarks of consciousness like feedforward signaling across the cortex analog and reentrant thalamocortical circuits (no, I'm not completely sure what either of those means, either) and I either got to suggest that I'm clever or pretentious by pointing out that his proposed experimental setup had a bit of a bug: he's like to have LCD monitors show a picture of a squid to another squid, and try to get some communication going, and watch the results, but I suggested that may be more difficult than one might think, because it's known in octos and cuttles that they include polarization in their communication, and LCDs are all polarized in the same direction, while CRTs are randomly polarized, so a simulated animal may look similar to us but completely wrong to another ceph that can see the incorrect polarization. Of course, it's still an interesting question whether the ceph could learn to communicate with intensity and ignore polarization, just as we can learn to interact with not-really-believable fake-humans in video games....

I was (of course) sad that he moved on to the conclusions at that point, summing up that he thinks that it's possible and useful to study consciousness in diverse animals, and adding notes that we should look for systems analogous to human cortex and other brain parts that seem to control our consciousness, that the behavior in the lab may be different from what's seen in the wild (so we should look at both) and we should study as wide a range of animals as we can find that show signs of "consciousness" in order to get a broad understanding of what that really means.

In case it's not obvious, I really enjoyed this talk, and I'm quite enthusiastic. I also encourage Hallucigenia to mention anything I've forgotten, and hope Dr. Edelman himself might stop by to comment.

Some things that didn't fit into the above description but might be of interest: I mentioned Robyn's work with nautilus, since he was mentioning that coleoids are more interesting in this regard than nautilus, but it sounds like Robyn's proven that nautiluses shouldn't be held in low regard in this area either. Also, he gets points for mentioning that firefly squids have 3 photopigments. I also suspect that he might want to augment some of the videos he showed from Hanlon's lab with some from Roy and Chrissy, since I think the walking-coconut-aculeatus would have fit in quite well, and Roy's recent videos of chromatophores on octopus hatchlings would have helped explain how chromatophore anatomy worked to those in the audience unfamiliar with that.
 

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