Neuroscientists Discover an Ignition Switch for Consciousness

Researchers at George Washington University have identified a part of the brain that, when stimulated with an electric impulse, disrupts consciousness.

What's the Latest?


When Francis Crick, the English scientist who helped discover the structure of DNA, died in 2004, he and a colleague were in the midst of researching the potential existence of an on-off switch for consciousness located somewhere deep within the brain. Crick's hypothesis likened the proposed switch to an orchestra conductor "to bind all of our different external and internal perceptions together." Researchers at George Washington University in Washington DC believe they may have found Crick's conductor. As it happens, it's located in the exact part of the brain Crick had initially guessed: the claustrum.

What's the Big Idea?

Helen Thomson of New Scientist describes the claustrum as "a thin, sheet-like structure that lies hidden deep inside the brain." The scientists at George Washington were treating an epileptic patient with high frequency electric impulses via electrodes placed in her brain. They found that when the electrode placed next to the claustrum was activated, the woman temporarily lost consciousness. When the electrode was turned off and the claustrum was no longer being stimulated, the woman reverted back to consciousness having no memory of what had just occurred. Dr. Mohamad Koubessi, the lead author on the newly published study detailing the event, identifies that this is only the beginning of research on the claustrum as conductor/disruptor of consciousness.

Keep Reading at New Scientist

>> TOPIC UPDATE! www.extremetech.com

Photo credit: agsandrew / Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO/AFP/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less
Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
Surprising Science
  • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
  • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
  • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
Keep reading Show less

This 1997 Jeff Bezos interview proves he saw the future coming

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, explains his plan for success.

Technology & Innovation
  • Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for Amazon.com from the start.
  • He was inspired by a statistic he learned while working at a hedge fund: In the '90s, web usage was growing at 2,300% a year.
  • Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
Keep reading Show less