What Do Animals See in a Mirror?

Wald_BREAKERILLUSTRATION BY EMMANUEL POLANCO

A controversial test for self-awareness is dividing the animal kingdom.

The idea for a tool to probe the basis of consciousness came to Gordon G. Gallup, Jr. while shaving. “It just occurred to me,” he says, “wouldn’t it be interesting to see if other creatures could recognize themselves in mirrors?”

Showing chimpanzees their reflections seemed like a fascinating little experiment when he first tried it in the summer of 1969. He didn’t imagine that this would become one of the most influential—and most controversial—tests in comparative psychology, ushering the mind into the realm of experimental science and foreshadowing questions on the depth of animal suffering. “It’s not the ability to recognize yourself in a mirror that is important,” he would come to believe. “It’s what that says about your ability to conceive of yourself in the first place.”

Gallup was a new professor at Tulane University in Louisiana, where he had access to the chimps and gorillas at what would later be known as the Tulane National Primate Research Center. The chimpanzees there had been caught as youngsters in Africa and shipped to America, where they were used mainly in biomedical research. By comparison, his experiment was far less invasive. He isolated two chimps in cages, and placed a mirror in each cage for eight hours at a time over 10 days. Through a hole in the wall, Gallup witnessed a shift in the chimps’ behavior. First they treated the reflection like it was another chimp, with a combination of social, sexual, and aggressive gestures. But over time, they started using it to explore their own bodies. “They’d use the mirror to look at the inside of their mouths, to make faces at the mirror, to inspect their genitals, to remove mucous from the corner of their eyes,” Gallup says.

MIRROR TEST: Kitties and puppies see a playmate in the mirror. Are animals that recognize themselves somehow smarter?Video was compiled from various clips. Full credit info is below.

Gallup was sure that the chimps had learned to recognize themselves in the mirror, but he didn’t trust that other researchers would be convinced by his descriptions. So he moved on to phase two of the experiment. He anesthetized the chimps, then painted one eyebrow ridge and the opposite ear tip with a red dye that the chimps wouldn’t be able to feel or smell. If they truly recognized themselves, he thought he knew what would happen: “It seemed pretty obvious that if I saw myself in a mirror with marks on my face, that I’d reach up and inspect those marks.”

That’s exactly what the chimps did. As far as Gallup was concerned, that was proof: “the first experimental demonstration of a self-concept in a subhuman form,” he wrote in the resulting 1970 report in Science. “It was just clear as day,” he remembers. “It didn’t require any statistics. There it was. Bingo.”

But the result that really blew Gallup’s mind came when he tested monkeys, and discovered that they did not do the same. The ability to recognize one’s reflection seemed not to be a matter of learning abilities, with some species being slower than others. It was an issue of higher intellectual capacity. Gallup had obtained the first good evidence that our closest relatives share with us a kind of self-awareness or even consciousness, to the exclusion of other animals. Here, finally, was an experimental handle on a topic that had been the subject of speculation for millennia: What is the nature of human consciousness?

DIY Mirror Test

Gallup wasn’t the first to come up with the notion that it might be significant if a person or animal recognizes itself in the mirror. He would only later learn that Charles Darwin had shown mirrors to orangutans, but they didn’t figure the mirror out, at least while he was watching. Darwin had also noted that, for their first few years, his children couldn’t recognize themselves in their reflections. In 1889, German researcher Wilhelm Preyer became the first to posit a connection between mirror self-recognition and an inner sense of self in people.

More than 50 years later, French psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan conceived of a childhood “mirror stage,” in which mirrors contribute to the formation of the ego. By 1972, developmental psychologists started using mark tests similar to Gallup’s to pin down the age at which children begin to recognize themselves in the mirror: 18 to 24 months.

Meanwhile Gallup, who moved to the University at Albany-SUNY, became interested in whether any non-primates could pass. In the early 1990s, he encouraged one of his Ph.D. students, Lori Marino, to explore the question. Working with Diana Reiss at Marine World Africa USA in California, Marino exposed two bottlenose dolphins at an aquarium to a mirror. Like the chimpanzees, the dolphins learned to use the mirror in a variety of ways, even “having sex in front of the mirror with each other, which we call our dolphin porno tapes,” Marino says. The three researchers published the results, saying they were “suggestive” of mirror self-recognition.

Still, they were missing the crucial mark test for another decade. The biggest hurdle was anatomical: The dolphins didn’t have hands to touch a mark. But Reiss and Marino, by then at the New York Aquarium, designed a modified test. When marked with black ink on various parts of their bodies, the dolphins flipped and wriggled in an attempt to see it, convincing the researchers and many others that they recognized themselves…

more…

http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/what-do-animals-see-in-a-mirror-rp

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What the Rat Brain Tells Us About Yours

Katnelson-BR-2

The evolution of animal models for neuroactive medicine.

Alittle more than a decade ago, Mike Mendl developed a new test for gauging a laboratory rat’s level of happiness. Mendl, an animal welfare researcher in the veterinary school at the University of Bristol in England, was looking for an objective way to tell whether animals in captivity were suffering. Specifically, he wanted to be able to measure whether, and how much, disruptions in lab rats’ routines—being placed in an unfamiliar cage, say, or experiencing a change in the light/dark cycle of the room in which they were housed—were bumming them out.

He and his colleagues explicitly drew on an extensive literature in psychology that describes how people with mood disorders such as depression process information and make decisions: They tend to focus on and recall more negative events and to judge ambiguous things in a more negative way. You might say that they tend to see the proverbial glass as half-empty rather than half-full. “We thought that it’s easier to measure cognitive things than emotional ones, so we devised a test that would give us some indication of how animals responded under ambiguity,” Mendl says. “Then, we could use that as a proxy measure of the emotional state they were in.”

First, they trained rats to associate one tone with something positive (food, of course) and a different tone with something negative (hearing an unpleasant noise). They also trained them to press a lever upon hearing the good tone. Then, for the test, they’d play an intermediate tone and watch how the animals responded. Rats have great hearing, and the ones whose cage life wasn’t disturbed were pretty good judges of where the new tone fell between the other two sounds. If it was closer to the positive tone they’d hit the lever, and if it was closer to the negative one they’d lay off. But the ones whose routine had been tweaked over the past two weeks judged this auditory information more negatively. Essentially, their negative responses bled into the positive half of the sound continuum.

Since Mendl published his so-called judgment bias task in 2004, it’s been shown to work in at least 15 other species, including dogs, sheep, bees, and even us humans. Some scientists—himself included—have begun to ask whether there’s a role for it beyond animal welfare. Considering that it probes one of the core clinical measures of depression, could it be used to evaluate the efficacy of much-needed new medicines for that condition?

Katnelson-BR-1
RAT FUNK: For years the pharmaceutical industry depended on the “forced swim test” to validate antidepressants. It showed rats given the drug would paddle longer in water before giving up than rats not doped.Frank Greenaway / Getty Images

Drug discovery in neuroscience has hit a wall, with just 1 in 10 drugs tested in the final stage of clinical trials reaching the finish line of approval. With very few exceptions, no new types of drugs for mind disorders have been approved for decades. You might think drugs fail because they’re found to be toxic, but most die in clinical trials because they aren’t shown to work. Trace that back to the root of the problem, and one big stumbling stone along the drug development pathway is the point where animal tests—and most are done in rodents—wrongly predicted they would.

“We have lots of experience with this—15 to 20 years of failure,” says Ricardo Dolmetsch, the global head of neuroscience at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research. “I can name 14 or 15 examples [of tested drugs] that were just fantastic in animals and did not do anything at all in humans.”

Even as these failures have accrued, neuroscientists armed with increasingly potent tools for pinpointing the genes that play a role in psychiatric disorders and the brain circuits those genes control are getting closer to understanding the pathologies of these illnesses. As drug companies—which had largely abandoned or strongly curtailed their efforts in neuroscience and mental health over the past several years—begin to dip their toes back into the water, it seems a fitting time to ask whether modeling aspects of the human mind in rodents is even possible.

One word explains why testing neuropsychiatric drugs in animal models is hard, and that word is language. If we want people to tell us how they feel, we ask them. Animals, of course, have to show us—and it turns out some of our widely used methods for guiding them to do so haven’t been that great. That’s particularly true for depression. How do we know a rat is depressed?

An experiment called the “forced swim test” or “Porsolt test,” after its founder Roger Porsolt, has been widely used since the late 1970s, at least by pharmaceutical companies and drug regulators.

It’s a remarkable story. Before the mid 20th century, treatments for mental or psychiatric disorders consisted primarily of psychotherapy or interventions like sleep cures, insulin shock therapy, surgeries such as lobotomy, or electrical brain stimulation—most prominently, electroconvulsive therapy. Quite suddenly, spurred by the accidental discovery of an antipsychotic drug called chlorpromazine in 1952, these conditions were re-imagined as chemical imbalances that could be corrected with a well-designed pill…

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http://nautil.us/issue/47/consciousness/what-the-rat-brain-tells-us-about-yours

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Europe is on the Brink of Completely Banning Bee-Killing Insecticides

by Alex Pietrowski, Staff Writer, Waking Times

As the first North American bumble bee has been officially added to the list of endangered species in the U.S., the European government is making a move to prohibit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are widely believed to be a major contributing factor to the rapid collapse of the world’s bee and pollinator insect populations.

The European commission (EC) has drafted regulations which would end the use of neonics, a family of agrichemicals which pose a ‘high acute risk to bees.’ As The Guardian reports:

“The EU imposed a temporary ban on the use of the three key neonicotinoids on some crops in 2013. However, the new proposals are for a complete ban on their use in fields, with the only exception being for plants entirely grown in greenhouses. The proposals could be voted on as soon as May and, if approved, would enter force within months.” [Source]

Other pesticides are also included in the ban, and for those who consider the loss of pollinator insects to be a most critical issue today, this is also good news.

“However, the European commission (EC) has decided to move towards implementing a complete ban now, based on risk assessments of the pesticides by the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa), published in 2016.

..the EC concluded that “high acute risks for bees” had been identified for “most crops” from imidacloprid and clothianidin, both made by Bayer. For thiamethoxam, made by Syngenta, the EC said the company’s evidence was “not sufficient to address the risks”.” [Source]

While agrichemical companies would like us to believe that more research is needed to disprove the presumption that these chemicals are of no harm to the environment and necessary to feeding the world, others insist we need to stop using them now.

“The science is catching up with the pesticide industry – the EU and UK government must call time on neonics. Going neonic-free puts farmers more in control of their land instead of having to defer to advice from pesticide companies.” ~Paul de Zylva, Friends of the Earth

Final Thoughts

One has to wonder when the reality will sink into American public and political consciousness that bees and pollinators are critical to our lives, our food supply and even our economy.

“As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination; one crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time.

For many others, crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without honey bee pollination. In fact, a 1999 Cornell University study documented that the contribution made by managed honey bees hired by U.S. crop growers to pollinate crops amounted to just over $14.6 billion.” ~American Beekeeping Federation

The new proposals could be voted on in coming months, and if passed implementation of this policy could begin as early as this year.

About the Author
Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and Offgrid Outpost, a provider ofstorable food and emergency kits. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.
This article (Europe is on the Brink of Completely Banning Bee-Killing Insecticides) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.
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How Showing Compassion for Animals Can Improve Personal Well-Being

by Alex Pietrowski, Staff,Waking Times

Compassion is the humane side of suffering, which inspires the most beautiful acts of humanity. In man’s world, animals often bear the worst of our dark side, suffering under the stresses of cruelty and ruthlessness, however, being compassionate towards animals may actually be good for your health and well-being, perhaps even prolonging your life.

For so many of us, compassion appears to be an innate, instinctual part of the human experience, something so many of us do automatically, and decades of clinical psychological research into the problem of human suffering shows how our most evolved nature is to respond compassionately. A host of university studies share the conclusion that compassion is part of our higher nature, looking at the biological basis for compassion.

Dacher Keltner summarized the emerging findings from this new science of human goodness, proposing that compassion is “an evolved part of human nature, rooted in our brain and biology.”” [Source]

Human well-being is multi-dimensional and the corollaries between how we behave and how that behavior in turn affects our overall wellness are more understood now than ever before. When we act from our higher nature, it benefits our health, which may explain the tendency for so many people to live altruistic lives in helping others and protecting animals.

“That suffering, as unpleasant as it is, often also has a bright side to which research has paid less attention: compassion. Human suffering is often accompanied by beautiful acts of compassion by others wishing to help relieve it. What led 26.5 percent of Americans to volunteer in 2012 (according to statistics from the US Department of Labor)? What propels someone to serve food at a homeless shelter, pull over on the highway in the rain to help someone with a broken down vehicle, or feed a stray cat?” [Source]

Taking this one step further, looking at the tendency of people to extend compassion beyond the human race, showing empathy towards the animal kingdom and the natural world, we find an infinite number of possibilities for improving our own lives by directing our energy toward ending the pain and suffering of many beings.

Being compassionate has even been shown to make us more attractive to the opposite sex in behavioral studies looking at societies with more altruistic tendencies.

“One more sign that suggests that compassion is an adaptively evolved trait is that it makes us more attractive to potential mates. A study examining the trait most highly valued in potential romantic partners suggests that both men and women agree that “kindness” is one of the most highly desirable traits.” [Source]

Furthermore, engaging in acts of compassion, when done for the right reasons, can increase one’s peace of mind and happiness:

“The cultivation of well-being has specifically shown that it is eudemonic, rather than hedonic wellbeing which is linked to a sense of connectedness with oneself, and others. Eudemonic wellbeing implies finding meaning and purpose in life, living in accordance with one’s values and developing a sense of long-term “spiritual” health (not necessarily religious).

In turn, eudemonic well-being may be cultivated through mindful practices such as mediation and compassion training.” [Source]

Final Thoughts

It’s not something that would surprise most people, as the expression of our best nature feels good and is uplifting for everyone involved, but the inverse of this must also be true, that people who neglect their own health would have a more difficult time being compassionate to animals, and even nature in general. Therefore, adding intentional kindness, compassion and empathy the ways in which we attain better health and wellness makes perfect sense.

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com and Offgrid Outpost, a provider ofstorable food and emergency kits. Alex is an avid student of Yoga and life.

This article (How Showing Compassion for Animals Can Improve Personal Well-Being) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Alex Pietrowski and WakingTimes.com. It may be re-posted freely with proper attribution, author bio, and this copyright statement.

http://www.wakingtimes.com/2017/03/21/the-link-between-compassion-for-animals-and-good-health/

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What to Do If You’re Attacked By a Dog, According to a Former Navy SEAL

Stephanie Lee

Hopefully, you’ll never be in a situation where you have to use these tips, but they might just come in handy to help you handle a dog attack. In this Business Insider video, a former Navy SEAL tells you what you need to know to protect yourself.

First, be very clear that the dog is really about to attack you. Use a shirt, jacket, or a purse to draw the dog’s attention from other vital body parts. If the dog pounces, most of us might reflexively put our arms in front of us to shield us from the dog. But Clint Emerson warns that you should bare only the outer part of the forearm and, if possible, wrap a shirt around your forearm for added protection. We want to protect the major arteries on the ulna and radial side at all costs.

If you need to fight back, Emerson advises literally punching the dog in the nose. The reason is, it’s a big target for you to hit. As he explains, when you’re under the threat and heightened stress of being attacked, it’s all you can manage to focus on “big movements by you to big targets on the dog.” The dog’s rib cage is also a sensitive area.

For more survival and safety tips on dog attacks, you can check out our article.

A Navy SEAL explains what to do if you’re attacked by a dog | Business Insider

http://lifehacker.com/what-to-do-if-youre-attacked-by-a-dog-according-to-a-f-1793233937

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Kitten Meditation

Kitten Meditation
Photo by Carolina Barría Kemp | https://tricy.cl/2l8ylQS

Thai Forest monk Ajahn Brahm invites us to start meditating by choosing something easy to love in this excerpt from his book

By Ajahn Brahm

I continue to visualize my imaginary friend, picturing it as abandoned, hungry, and very afraid. In its short span of life it has known only rejection, violence, and loneliness. I imagine its bones sticking out from its emaciated body, its fur soiled with grime and some blood, and its body rigid with terror. I consider that if I don’t care for this vulnerable little being then no one will, and it will die such a horrible, lonely, terrified death. I feel that kitten’s pain fully, in all its forms, and my heart opens up, releasing a flood of compassion. I will care for that little kitten. I will protect it and feed it.I imagine myself looking deeply into its anxious eyes, trying to melt its apprehension with the metta flowing through my own eyes. I reach out to it slowly, reassuringly, never losing eye contact. Gently, I pick up that little kitten and bring it to my chest. I remove the kitten’s cold with the warmth from my own body, I take away its fear with the softness of my embrace, and I feel the kitten’s trust grow. I speak to the kitten on my chest:

“Little being, never feel alone again. Never feel so afraid. I will always look after you, be your protector and friend. I love you, little kitten. Wherever you go, whatever you do, my heart will always welcome you. I give you my limitless lovingkindness always.”

When I do this, I feel my kitten become warm, relax, and finally purr.

This is but an outline of how I begin my meditation on metta. I usually take much more time. I use my imagination and inner speech to paint a picture in my mind, to create a scenario where the first flames of metta can arise.

At the end of the mental exercise, my eyes still closed, I focus the attention on the region around my heart and feel the first warm glow of the emotion of kindfulness…

more…

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/kitten-meditation/

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Undersea: Rachel Carson’s Lyrical and Revolutionary 1937 Masterpiece Inviting Humans to Explore Earth from the Perspective of Other Creatures

Art by Rambharos Jha from Waterlife

“Against this cosmic background the lifespan of a particular plant or animal appears, not as drama complete in itself, but only as a brief interlude in a panorama of endless change.”

Pioneering biologist and writer Rachel Carson (May 27, 1907–April 14, 1964) catalyzed the modern environmental movement with the groundbreaking publication of Silent Spring in 1962, but the spark for this slow-burning revolution was kindled a quarter century earlier, while 28-year-old Carson was working for what would later become the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. When she was tasked with writing a brochure for the Fisheries Bureau, summarizing their annual research findings, Carson transmuted the science into poetry and turned in something so exquisitely lyrical that her supervisor told her they simply couldn’t publish it as their standard government report. But he encouraged her to submit it to The Atlantic Monthly as an essay. She did. It was enthusiastically accepted and published in the September 1937 issue as the trailblazing masterpiece “Undersea” under the byline R.L. Carson — a choice reflective of Carson’s era-calibrated fear that her writing wouldn’t be taken as seriously if her gender was known. Ironically, of the twenty-one contributors in that issue of the magazine, Carson’s name is the only one widely recognized today.

The essay became the backbone of Carson’s first book, Under the Sea-Wind, which remained her favorite piece of writing, and was later included in the excellent Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson (public library).

Rachel Carson

Creatively, “Undersea” was unlike anything ever published before — Carson brought a strong literary aesthetic to science, which over the next two decades would establish her as the most celebrated science writer of her time. Conceptually, it accomplished something even Darwin hadn’t — it invited the reader to step beyond our reflexive human hubris and empathically explore this Pale Blue Dot from the vantage point of the innumerable other creatures with which we share it. Decades before philosopher Thomas Nagel wrote his iconic essay “What Is it Like to Be a Bat?” and nearly a century before Sy Montgomery’s beautiful inquiry into the soul of an octopus, Carson considered the experience of other consciousnesses. What the nature writer Henry Beston, one of Carson’s great heroes, brought to the land, she brought first to the sea, then to all of Earth — intensely lyrical prose undergirded by a lively reverence for nature and a sympathetic curiosity about the reality of other living beings.

Long before scientists like pioneering oceanographer Sylvia “Her Deepness” Earleplunged into the depths of the ocean, Carson shepherds the human imagination to the mysterious wonderland thriving below the surface of the seas that envelop Earth:

Who has known the ocean? Neither you nor I, with our earth-bound senses, know the foam and surge of the tide that beats over the crab hiding under the seaweed of his tide-pool home; or the lilt of the long, slow swells of mid-ocean, where shoals of wandering fish prey and are preyed upon, and the dolphin breaks the waves to breathe the upper atmosphere. Nor can we know the vicissitudes of life on the ocean floor, where sunlight, filtering through a hundred feet of water, makes but a fleeting, bluish twilight, in which dwell sponge and mollusk and starfish and coral, where swarms of diminutive fish twinkle through the dusk like a silver rain of meteors, and eels lie in wait among the rocks. Even less is it given to man to descend those six incomprehensible miles into the recesses of the abyss, where reign utter silence and unvarying cold and eternal night.

To sense this world of waters known to the creatures of the sea we must shed our human perceptions of length and breadth and time and place, and enter vicariously into a universe of all-pervading water.

North Pacific Giant Octopus by photographer Mark Laita from his project Sea

After a tour of some of the ocean’s most unusual and dazzling creatures, Carson considers the glorious and inevitable interconnectedness of the natural world, no different from the “inescapable network of mutuality” which Martin Luther King so passionately championed in the human world. She writes:

The ocean is a place of paradoxes. It is the home of the great white shark, two thousand pound killer of the seas. And of the hundred foot blue whale, the largest animal that ever lived. It is also the home of living things so small that your two hands may scoop up as many of them as there are stars in the Milky Way. And it is becoming of the flowering of astronomical numbers of these diminutive plants known as diatoms, that the surface waters of the ocean are in reality boundless pastures.

Every marine animal, from the smallest to the sharks and whales is ultimately dependent for its food upon these microscopic entities of the vegetable life of the ocean. Within their fragile walls, the sea performs a vital alchemy that utilizes the sterile chemical elements dissolved in the water and welds them with the torch of sunlight into the stuff of life. Only through the little-understood synthesis of proteins, fats and carbohydrates by myriad plant “producers” is the mineral wealth of the sea made available to the animal “consumers” that browse as they float with the currents. Drifting endlessly, midway between the sea of air above and the depths of the abyss below, these strange creatures and the marine inflorescence that sustains them are called “plankton” — the wanderers…

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https://www.brainpickings.org/

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