They are very intelligent birds. They use tools, store food, recognize faces. You are the crows. But not only that. A study published in “Science” comes up with something surprising. Ravens have primary or sensory awareness. An ability that has so far only been demonstrated in primates. This is what studio director Andreas Nieder speaks of. “A new way of studying the evolution of consciousness is opening up,” he explains.
The meander of consciousness
Awareness is the ability to perceive yourself and the world around you. In humans, it also means knowing what you know and thinking about that knowledge. It depends on abstract thinking. According to the biologist Gerald Edelman, this is all part of what is known as the secondary consciousness.
For him there is a primary awareness that is considered to be the most basic form of “self-awareness”. It is exclusive to primates. Well, Andreas Nieder’s conclusions say otherwise. Crows belong to the select group of primates. They also have subjective sensations.
They trained two black crows (Corvus corone) in order to be able to examine whether your feelings. An attempt was made to know whether they are influenced by any subjectivity. They learned to move their heads when they saw a visual stimulus on a screen. When they saw a light, they had to shake their heads to say yes. When there was no such light, they didn’t move their heads. Each raven responded to 20,000 signals over dozen of sessions.
While the birds were doing these tests, the scientists recorded their brain activity with electrodes. They saw that when the birds said yes, some neurons began to be active. The activity of the neurons enabled them to predict the raven’s response each time. Most of the screen lights were easy to see. But the researchers introduced very brief or very weak stimuli to put the birds to the test. If there was no subjective experience, ravens would respond the same to these dubious stimuli. But it was not like that.
The origin of the experience
Nieder’s results show that neurons are “influenced by subjective experience”. Or, what is the same, that they themselves “produce subjective experiences”. They give different answers to the same stimulus. According to Nieder, this opens up two scenarios.
On the one hand, it is possible that sensory awareness occurred independently in each species. This mechanism is called convergent evolution in biology. Explain that insects and birds have wings from different origins for the same function.
There is another option. The last common ancestor of ravens and mammals existed 320 million years ago. Perhaps that’s why they share a mechanism that explains this ability.
Martin Stacho, biopsychologist at the Ruhr University, explains this on “Sciencealert.com”. The brain architecture of pigeons, owls, and mammals is strikingly similar. Ravens have a primordial consciousness and perhaps this is more common in birds than previously assumed. The question that remains to be answered is whether an animal has a secondary consciousness besides humans … and is aware that it is conscious.