The Minds of Animals

Many humanists now feel that we should expand our circle of concern to include other sentient living beings and the ecosystems upon which we live. So we may ask about what is going on in the minds of animals.

Can animals think or feel? Can they remember specific events? Can they imagine or anticipate what they might encounter in the future? During the twentieth century, many scientists subscribed to the view that animal brains were like mechanical wind-up toys. However, in recent decades, detailed behavioral observations and recordings from animal brains have shown us some of the surprising capacities of animal minds. We are just beginning to understand some of the diverse intelligences among us. This talk will give a whirlwind tour of recent discoveries about the minds of animals: from dogs to dolphins and from our cousins the apes to the alien intelligence of octopods.

Mark Reimers is an associate professor in the neuroscience program at Michigan State University where he integrates statistical analysis with neuroscience theory in order to interpret the very large data sets now being generated in neuroscience, especially from the technologies developed by the BRAIN initiative. He graduated from the University of Toronto and the University of British Columbia and previously held appointments at the National Institutes of Health, Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and Virginia Commonwealth University.