Do fish feel pain?

A new research project man be of great significance for how we treat fish in the future
October 15, 2008

Do fish feel pain? 

Using MRI scanning and other neurophysiological methods, scientists will study which parts of the cod's brain are involved when the fish is exposed to potentially painful stimuli.

The scientists will also study how the signals are processed in the cod's brain and compare this with knowledge about other animals and human beings.

They hope this will provide increased knowledge about how the cod's brain functions and be an important step towards understanding whether fish are able to experience discomfort.

"This is ground-breaking work," says Head of Project Øyvind Aas-Hansen at Nofima Marine. "No other scientists have previously studied the cod's brain in this way."

"All living creates react to outer stimuli, but we don't know whether they comprehend this as unpleasant," says Aas-Hansen. "Norwegian authorities and regulations base their opinion on a precautionary principle and presume fish can feel discomfort. We are studying this to see whether this is correct."

State-of-the art equipment is needed to reveal cod's innermost secrets. In order to achieve this, the scientific team has a broad composition and comprises experts in everything from fish biology and medicine to statistics, physics and psychology.

"This is a technologically complicated and demanding project," says Aas-Hansen. "We have become attached to experts who don't normally work with fish, including specialists in MRI scanning and human pain research."

The project involves a total of nine institutions located in Tromsø, Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Liverpool and Antwerp. The three-year research project, which started this autumn, is financed by the Research Council of Norway.