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Do Fish Feel Pain?
LaDon Swann
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Program

Pain is transmitted by specific neural pathways and receptors for pain may be activated by mechanical, thermal, or chemical stimuli. Fish possess these types of receptors in their skin. In humans, pain is sent to higher brain centers (prefrontal cortex) where it is perceived and the perception is associated with a powerful emotional experience. Fish, however, do not possess these well developed higher brain centers and thus they probably perceive a painful stimulus and react to it almost as a reflex. After the initial perception, they would not be bothered by the stimulus, similar to what occurs in humans who have had surgery to central brain regions to treat chronic pain.

 

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