What do fish feel? Following Darwin’s ideas, at the end of the nineteenth century George Romanes published books on animal intelligence and mental evolution, using carefully collected anecdotal material. Fish were considered as expressing emotions of fear, joy, play and curiosity.
With the rise of experiment-driven and observational behavioural biology and psychology, mental life was set aside as not open to scientific study. The last few decades, new theoretical frameworks and experimental paradigms as well as neuroscientific discoveries have pushed the argument forward again that we can know more about what fish feel. Neurobiologist dr. Ruud van den Bos takes the audience on a journey through evolutionary biology and behavioural science, focussing on pain and fear in fish.
Ruud van den Bos
Dr. Ruud van den Bos (Radboud University) researches the role of emotion and cognition in the organisation of behaviour. Over the years this has comprised studies on humans and non-human vertebrates, developing cross-species specific tasks, studying the neural underpinnings of emotion and cognition, and trying to understand the relationship with awareness. Furthermore he has been interested in applying knowledge of the workings of the emotional and cognitive system(s) to the field of human and animal welfare (e.g. stress and adaptation). Methods he used encompass: Pavlovian and operant conditioning and decision-making tasks, such as Iowa Gambling Task, for which he has developed the first rodent model.
Fish pose a challenge to the studies of emotion and cognition: neural circuitries are at first glance unlike those in mammals, but behaviourally similar outcomes are found in several tasks. Given their diverse environments, life histories and social relationships fish may prove highly interesting subjects to increase our understanding of brain-behaviour relationships regarding emotion and cognition.