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Lobster pain

Joe Joseph_Pullara at Maillink.berkeley.edu
Wed Jun 22 16:09:33 EST 1994

In article <2u9pct$qt0 at oac4.hsc.uth.tmc.edu>
jstream at girch1.med.uth.tmc.edu (Rifle River) writes:

> He stated that a lobster could not feel pain because it
> lacked a cerebral cortex.  This is absolutely an incorrect conclusion.  I
> know of numerous animals that lack a cerebral cortex, yet, they still have
> pain receptors or nociceptors.  I work on the nociceptors in Aplysia, a sea
> snail.

First of all, I'm in complete agreement regarding your opinion of Rush
Limbaugh, he IS an idiot. However, your assertion that the presence of
nociceptors = ability to FEEL pain is problematic.  True, invertebrates
such as Aplysia (and lobsters) have nociceptors. However, these are
involved in simple reflexes - usually withdrawl reflexes - with very
few synapses between nociceptor and the effector (muscle, gland, etc.).
Although simple learning (e.g. classical conditioning) may occur in
response to noxious stimuli (e.g. gill withdrawl in Aplysia), I think
you would be hard pressed to find a neuroscientist who would equate
this to "feeling" pain. The problem comes down to what do we mean when
we say something feels pain?  Certainly, what most humans mean by "feel
pain" is not something an invertebrate nervous system is capable of. 
Data from humans with damage to somatosensory association cortex (where
we "feel" pain) tend to support the idea that a cerbral cortex is
necessary to "feel pain".

Of course this may all be irrelevent to the lobster thrown into a pot
of boiling water... We'll never know the lobster's perspective.... From
the human perspective I can say it's quite tasty - no pain involved.

- Joe Pullara
  UC Berkeley
  Joseph_Pullara at Maillink.berkeley.edu

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