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Consciousness on-off switch discovered deep in brain

RATE THIS! +38
Posted in Science on 6th Jul, 2014 04:28 AM by AlexMuller

Researchers have switched off consciousness by electrically stimulating a single brain area. Scientists have been probing brain regions for over a century, exploring their function by zapping them with electricity, temporarily putting them out of action. However, they have never been able to turn off consciousness, until now.

 
Although only tested in one person, the discovery suggests that a single area, the claustrum, might be integral to combining disparate brain activity into a seamless package of thoughts, sensations and emotions. It takes us a step closer to answering a problem that has confounded scientists and philosophers for millennia, namely how our conscious awareness arises.
 
Many theories abound but most agree that consciousness has to involve the integration of activity from several brain networks, allowing us to perceive our surroundings as one single unifying experience rather than isolated sensory perceptions.
 
One proponent of this idea was Francis Crick, a pioneering neuroscientist who earlier in his career had identified the structure of DNA. Just days before he died in July 2004, Crick was working on a paper that suggested our consciousness needs something akin to an orchestra conductor to bind all of our different external and internal perceptions together.

Tags: brainconsciousnessmindneuronsneurosciencemedicine

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Comments

Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-07-06
+2
Great finding! I like the idea that consciousness is integrated in one specific area that operates like a conductor of an orchestra - this is a good start to find out more!
4 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-07-06
+2
Yes, great finding.The results suggest that the region called claustrum plays a vital role in triggering conscious experience. They suggest this analogy: "I would liken it to a car. A car on the road has many parts that facilitate its movement – the gas, the transmission, the engine – but there's only one spot where you turn the key and it all switches on and works together. So while consciousness is a complicated process created via many structures and networks – we may have found the key." Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-07-06
+1
We have to be cautious when interpreting behaviour from a single case study. The subject of this study (one single patient) was missing part of her hippocampus, which was removed to treat her epilepsy, so she doesn't represent a "normal" brain!
1 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-07-06
+1
I agree. It is difficult to define consciousness, let alone to understand how brain functions underpin this phenomenon Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-07-06
+1
It seems that when we lose consciousness, the communication among areas of the brain becomes extremely inefficient, as if suddenly each area of the brain became very distant from every other. This is consistent with the idea discussed in this paper. Reply
Reply
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-07-06
+2
We have to put this in perspective- we are dealing here with the highest level of complexity. The most complex structure that we know exists- mammalian brain. Consciousness is most complex function - so there is nothing more difficult than this and any progress is most welcome!
2 Replies
Author: Guest
Posted: 2014-07-06
+0
The problem is much more challenging than what non-scientists assume. It seems that scientists not have an inkling regarding how the human brain generates something like basic conscious experience Reply
Reply


 

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