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Fish may actually feel pain and react to it much like humans
Date:4/30/2009

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Fish don't make noises or contort their faces to show that it hurts when hooks are pulled from their mouths, but a Purdue University researcher believes they feel that pain all the same.

Joseph Garner, an assistant professor of animal sciences, helped develop a test that found goldfish do feel pain, and their reactions to it are much like that of humans. A paper detailing the finding was published in the early online version of the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

"There has been an effort by some to argue that a fish's response to a noxious stimuli is merely a reflexive action, but that it didn't really feel pain," Garner said. "We wanted to see if fish responded to potentially painful stimuli in a reflexive way or a more clever way."

Garner and Janicke Nordgreen, a doctoral student in the Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, attached small foil heaters to the goldfish and slowly increased the temperature. The heaters were designed with sensors and safeguards that shut off the heaters to prevent any physical damage to a fish's tissue.

Half of the fish were injected with morphine, and the others received saline. The researchers believed that those with the morphine would be able to withstand higher temperatures before reacting if they actually felt the pain. However, both groups of fish showed a response at about the same temperature.

Because both groups of fish wriggled at about the same temperature, the researchers thought the responses might be more like a reflex than a cognitive reaction to experiencing pain. The reflexive response is similar to a person involuntarily moving a hand off a hot stove with which they had come into contact. The reaction happens before a person actually experiences pain or understands that they have been hurt.

Upon later observation in their home tanks, however, the researchers noticed that the fish from each group were exhibiting
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Contact: Brian Wallheimer
bwallhei@purdue.edu
765-496-2050
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert

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