JAN 19, 2017 2:31 PM PST

How Do Animals Sense Pain?

WRITTEN BY: Jennifer Ellis

We know how humans experience pain and what behaviors we display to show we are in pain. But what about animals? With different means of communication and a variation in biology depending on the animal, how do we know if an animal is in pain?

The first characteristic of pain sensation is physical recognition of something harmful, called nociception. This occurs when nerves in the skin sense something harmful and communicate this with the brain via the spinal cord. The brain then sends signals for the body to move away from the stimulus. The second characteristic is the conscious recognition of harm, where the sensation of pain is created. This is how humans and most likely all vertebrates process pain, but what about other animals such as invertebrates?

Research has shown that different animals still have similar pain reflexes and memory of harm. Animals tend to recoil from something that has caused them harm in the past, or rub a spot that has been zapped with electricity. Through continued learning about different perceptions of pain, hopefully we can work towards not creating pain needlessly in any living being.
About the Author
  • I love all things science and am passionate about bringing science to the public through writing. With an M.S. in Genetics and experience in cancer research, marketing and technical writing, it is a pleasure to share the latest trends and findings in science on LabRoots.
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