On/Off Switch for Consciousness Discovered by Accident?

page: 1
9

log in

join

posted on Jul, 7 2014 @ 12:42 PM
link   
The results have thus far only been seen in a single patient but the implications of this serendipitous discovery could be far-reaching.


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.


The woman has epilepsy so the team were using deep brain electrodes to record signals from different brain regions to work out where her seizures originate. One electrode was positioned next to the claustrum, an area that had never been stimulated before.

When the team zapped the area with high frequency electrical impulses, the woman lost consciousness. She stopped reading and stared blankly into space, she didn't respond to auditory or visual commands and her breathing slowed. As soon as the stimulation stopped, she immediately regained consciousness with no memory of the event. The same thing happened every time the area was stimulated during two days of experiments (Epilepsy and Behavior, doi.org/tgn).


source

Here's a depiction of a cross section of a human brain with the claustrum in blue (from Wikipedia):



An excerpt from the same Wikipedia entry detailing the claustrum's information processing:


The truly interesting thing about the claustrum, however, is how it can take in multiple information modalities, including motor, visual, and auditory. It has even been shown that the same cells can process information across all these types, even though there is some semblance of segregation across a single type of information.


The gist is that that the claustrum could act as a hub of sorts between the various regions of the brain and if so, could be responsible for aggregating the disparate signals and forming the coherent experience we know as consciousness. If this is born out by further experimentation it would confirm Crick and Koch's hypothesis and represent a significant step forward in understanding how consciousness is formed within the brain. In the near term, I'd expect this to potentially lead to things like safer alternatives to modern anesthesia and improvements in AI design.

Further reading:

Extreme Tech
Forbes

edit on 2014-7-7 by theantediluvian because: (no reason given)




posted on Jul, 7 2014 @ 12:57 PM
link   
a reply to: theantediluvian

it has been quite a few years I wonder what has come of it.



posted on Jul, 7 2014 @ 02:21 PM
link   
I think it would be a great answer for surgery instead of the typical anesthesia. Many possibilities with this and looking forward to finding out more about it. I also wonder if a person can reach the "other side" through this?



posted on Jul, 7 2014 @ 03:22 PM
link   
a reply to: theantediluvian

This is a very interesting thread, I have always been interested in consciousness and neuroscience. A piece like this is like a cornerstone in theory of mind. I'm not saying it is as simple as this, but it is obviously related to consciousness.



posted on Jul, 7 2014 @ 05:48 PM
link   
a reply to: theantediluvian

This experiment doesn't show that the consciousness and sensory intergration is fully IN the claustrum (it could be just part of a larger network), but at least the claustum's functioning is apparently necessary.

Also think about all the UFO "missing-time" scenarios. Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the you know what??



posted on Jul, 7 2014 @ 06:43 PM
link   

originally posted by: mbkennel
a reply to: theantediluvian

This experiment doesn't show that the consciousness and sensory intergration is fully IN the claustrum (it could be just part of a larger network), but at least the claustum's functioning is apparently necessary.

Also think about all the UFO "missing-time" scenarios. Transcranial magnetic stimulation of the you know what??


True. It wouldn't necessarily prove that the claustrum is solely responsible for integrating all of the information. What you say about missing time scenarios is also interesting in that if it could be made to work without an electrode, it could be possible to effectively switch off the conscious temporarily without leaving any physical evidence.

Thinking about the real world applications of technology like that, it's easy to imagine a host of really beneficial uses but also, some quite frightening prospects!



posted on Jul, 8 2014 @ 07:26 AM
link   
a reply to: theantediluvian

Given that prion-like proteins are essential for creating and maintaining long-term memories, quite likely they are involved in consciousness too.





new topics
top topics
 
9

log in

join