In an interesting development, scientists have accidentally come across an area in the brain which can be said to be the on/off switch of the working of the organ.
The discovery might take us a step forward in solving the mystery of exactly how our consciousness works and how its awareness arises.
Mohamad Koubeissi and his colleagues at George Washington University, the authors of a new study published last week may have found a switch in the brain that can literally make you fall asleep.
The scientists described how they managed to switch the consciousness on and off of a woman with epilepsy by electrically stimulating her claustrum. One of the interesting features of the claustrum is the uniformity in the types of cells, indicating a uniform type of processing by all claustral neurons.
Though organized into modality specific regions, the claustrum contains a great deal of longitudinal connections between its neurons that could serve to synchronize the entire anterior-posterior extent of the claustrum.
In an attempt to point out the area of a patient’s brain that was causing her seizures, the scientists were performing an experiment to monitor brain signals using deep brain electrodes. They made a surprise discovery when the woman lost consciousness and started to stare blankly into space when one of the electrodes positioned near the claustrum was electrically stimulated.
It was observed that as soon as they stopped the stimulation, she regained her consciousness with no memory of the event happened. To confirm that they were affecting the woman’s consciousness rather than her ability to speak and move, the experiment was continued for more than two days. Though tested on one person only, the discovery might be helpful to understand completely the working of the human brain.
A New Way to Switch On and Off Your Brain.