Do ‘Zoned-Out’ Rats Give an Insight into Consciousness?

Zoned-out rats may give clue to consciousness – life – 12 October 2011 – New Scientist.

According to this fascinating article:

HUMAN minds wander when they have nothing else to do. This is when people start to introspect, using a specific network of brain structures. The same network has now been identified in monkeys and rats, suggesting that “zoning out” might serve a key function in our survival. The findings raise questions over whether lower animals might also be capable of something akin to introspection.   

The prospects of an introspective rat raises profound questions for consciousness and how it applies to the rest of creation. Or does it? The fact that similar networks exists in rats and primates does not automatically mean that their functionality is identical, as the article makes clear.  But it certainly makes for interesting conjecture and opens up a plethora of avenues for further experimentation. 

4 responses to “Do ‘Zoned-Out’ Rats Give an Insight into Consciousness?”

  1. “the minimally anaesthetised rat also includes prefrontal regions.” love the whole concept of what this means for us (as humans) when we don’t apply the gift of thought or when we become SO introspective that we become self absorbed – either way – we have a lot to learn from our busy, furry friends !


  2. I’m not sure. people with fairly low level cerebral function – and I mean low are capable of zoning out.
    Egocentricity is the most basic level of cognition and operates at a fairly simple level.

    Interesting blog by the way


  3. surely there is an ethical delimma – here is an animal experiment that animals (some) can have higher order thoughts which is how we tend to distinguish ourselves from animals? what are your thoughts?


    1. Hi Lucy – yes, you raise a good point. It seems that the more empirical evidence becomes available, the more surprising the results. We humans have for too long underestimated the sophistication of other members of the Animal Kingdom.


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