​Intelligence and Consciousness in Flies

  • TWCF Number:


  • Project Duration:

    December 30, 2016 - January 31, 2019

  • Core Funding Area:

    Big Questions

  • Priority:

    Diverse Intelligences

  • Region:


  • Amount Awarded:


Director: Dr Naotsugu Tsuchiya

Institution: Monash University

Dictionaries define “intelligence” as the ability to learn and apply knowledge and skills. This definition of intelligence includes non-conscious behaviors in humans and complex behaviors in insects. A more complex form of intelligence is one that relates to consciousness. Can conscious intelligence be found across the biological spectrum?

This project investigates whether minds unlike our own can support rich consciousness. To do so, it will study an organism radically different from humans: the fruit fly (Drosophila). Flies show complex behaviors and sleep/awake cycles, but does that mean they are conscious? Based on Integrated Information Theory (IIT), we will test four hypotheses regarding the fly’s capacity to integrate information:

1. The fly brain’s anatomical connectivity indicates the highest capacity for integrated information in the sensory areas.
2. The neurophysiological index of integrated information is highest in the sensory areas of flies that are awake.
3. The anatomical and neurophysiological index of integrated information is strongly correlated.
4. General anesthesia will reduce the neurophysiological index of integrated information.

By evaluating data collected from these experiments, the project aims to develop a more empirical approach to understanding consciousness in diverse species.


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