A person can rely on the subjective feeling of pain to perform any task. As lead author Matilda Gibbons noted in an interview with Newsweek, “Soldiers sometimes don’t realize serious injuries on the battlefield because the body’s own opiates suppress the nociceptive signal. Insect brains have neural mechanisms that make the experience of pain similar.
Unlike mammals, insects do not have genes encoding opioid receptors. Therefore, other neurochemical mechanisms must come into play. A number of neuropeptides have been proposed as possible modulators of nociception in insects. These include drosulfakinin, allatostatin-C, and leukokinin, which have been shown to affect insect behavior.
The review states that the presence of downward control of nociception in insects suggests they experience some sense of pain. Some behaviors known to be mediated by top-down nociceptive control and used to measure pain in animals such as mice are also observed in insects. For example, decreased appetite in mice is often used as an indicator of pain, and insects have also been shown to show reduced response to food stimuli after nociceptive experiences.