From time to time I want to point to science that while studying a different subject, can nevertheless shed light on the nature of animal consciousness.
The main premise of my model for the animal mind is that the hunger/balance processes of the body and brain, do double, triple and ever-more elaborate duty in their service as a platform on which emotion evolves into feelings, all of which proceeds according to the principle of emotional conductivity. An animal knows that what it is doing is working when it “feels right” which as I’ve indicated before, is a state of emotional suspension. The animal “projects” into an object of attraction, and if the hunger component is strong enough, the object becomes its counterbalance and the observing animal feels as if in a state of physical suspension. This sense of weightlessness/resonance is the core of every true feeling (and which we can all discern for ourselves whenever we are fully integrated into an energy system such as driving a car or when emotionally bonded with another being). In the article cited below, researchers intrigued by the phenomenon of the runner's high have arrived at an interesting proposition and I’ve added emphasis in service to my model for the animal mind.
For decades, endorphins have hogged the credit for producing “runner’s high,” that fleeting sense of euphoria and calm that many people report experiencing after prolonged exercise. Who among us, after an especially satisfying workout, hasn’t thought, “ah, my endorphins are kicking in.”
As the article points out however, the problem is that endorphins are large molecules that can’t pass through the brain/blood barrier and so prove to be an unlikely candidate for runner’s high. Instead, research into the mechanism for the euphoria from smoking cannabis has brought forward a more compelling candidate than endorphins, and one that more directly involves the body as a substrate for the emotional experience.
“The endocannabinoid system was first mapped some years before that, when scientists set out to determine just how cannabis, a k a marijuana, acts upon the body. They found that a widespread group of receptors, clustered in the brain but also found elsewhere in the body
, allow the active ingredient in marijuana to bind to the nervous system and set off reactions that reduce pain and anxiety and produce a floaty, free-form sense of well-being
. Even more intriguing, the researchers found that with the right stimuli, the body creates its own cannabinoids
(the endocannabinoids). These cannabinoids are composed of molecules known as lipids, which are small enough to cross the blood-brain barrier, so cannabinoids found in the blood after exercise could be affecting the brain.”
“Running and slurping sugar
previously were identified as pleasurable behaviors in animals. Now the researchers saw that both activities lit up and sensitized portions of the animals’ endocannabinoid systems
, intimating that the endocannabinoid connection may lend both exercise and dessert their appeal.”
Whether this accumulating new science establishes, or ever can establish, definitively, that endocannabinoids are behind runner’s high, is uncertain. As Francis Chaouloff, a researcher at the University of Bordeaux in France and lead author of the genetically modified mouse study, pointed out in an e-mail, rodents, although fine models for studying endocannabinoid action, “do not fill questionnaires to express their feelings related to running,” and runners’ high is a subjective human experience. Still, endocannabinoids are a more persuasive candidate, especially given the overlap between the high associated with marijuana use and descriptions of the euphoria associated with strenuous exercise. One recent review article
described them: “pure happiness, elation, a feeling of unity with one’s self and/or nature, endless peacefulness,” and “inner harmony.”
So, the significance of seeing the body, rather than higher cognitive processes, as chief modifiers of simple emotion so that it can elaborate into a feeling, is that the environment and the energetic principles by which it is composed and by which it changes, thereby become intimately affiliated with the mind of the animal. The environment becomes part of an animal’s consciousness; its mind does not stand alone or can ever be cognizant of it having a self as something separate and distinct from its surroundings. Thus the animal arrives at an experience of consciousness that is organized according to how nature itself is organized. I believe this is the most parsimonious explanation for the evolution of adaptive behavior as well as the guiding principle by which animals learn as opposed to a rational construct of cause and effect, i.e. reinforcement theory. So if two dogs meet and greet, and if they can reduce their impressions of each other (by referencing their body via their hunger circuitry) to the simple laws of motion and the related principle of every action has an equal and opposite reaction, then they will get along. They get along because they have become each other’s opposite polarity, i.e. one internalizes a force of motion just as if it is being pushed on by a physical force, while the other expresses a force of motion just as if it is being pulled forward by a physical force. They ultimately bond through this process as they will invariably switch roles and flip polarities and they experience this kind of play via a state of emotional suspension. Then over a prolonged period of contact, their state of resonance each evokes in the other, continues to elaborate until their collective energies combine and deflects onto a complex object of resistance, which now can induce the state of emotional suspension as well. In short, they help each other realize more pleasure than they can possibly attain singly. So if we were to suspend what we think of what a dog is doing, in other words, were we to choose to observe dogs as creatures of the immediate-moment that go by feel, then the logic of this inherent intelligence becomes apparent. The body does more than carry the head around. It plugs the brain into the mind and the endocannibinoid system will undoubtedly prove to be part of the mechanism by which a state of emotional suspension is induced by the energetic principles of nature.