Neuroscience

An On-Off Switch For Consciousness

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The ClaustrumImagine turning off consciousness just like you turn off a light, with a flip of the switch. Doctors at George Washington University discovered that they could control consciousness by using electrodes to deliver tiny jolts of electricity to a particular brain region. It was when they stimulated the claustrum that their patient ignored commands and stared blankly into space. Watch this video to learn more.

From HuffPost Science:

“Dr. Mohamad Koubeissi and his team observed the phenomenon while mapping electrodes implanted in the woman’s brain as part of an attempt to determine the origin of her seizures. They activated the electrodes one by one, sending a pulse of electricity to various brain areas. When they stimulated a sheet-like area of neurons called the claustrum, Koubeissi noticed something odd: rather than responding to commands, the woman was just staring blankly into space.”

The study was published online in Epilepsy & Behavior.

Studies such as this one lead us to think about what exactly it means to be conscious. The Claustrum, the first book to explore the cognitive and clinical implications of the claustrum’s functionality, helps us out by exploring this topic in detail! Take a look below at chapter 14.

Download (PDF, 544KB)

1 Comment

  • KG Dharani says:

    Apart from claustrum there are several structures which appear to coordinate the conscious state in a human being. But it is more likely that consciousness is associated with more primitive structures than claustrum (or neocortex). The reason is simple: it should be noted that even the lower animals with no proper neocortex (or even cerebral hemispheres) can be conscious to their surroundings to some degree. Thus the origin of consciousness must lie somewhere in the brain stem region (RAS?).

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