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.
Photo credit: agsandrew / Shutterstock
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Do you have a magnetic compass in your head?
Turns out pushups are more telling than treadmill tests when it comes to cardiovascular health.
- Men who can perform 40 pushups in one minute are 96 percent less likely to have cardiovascular disease than those who do less than 10.
- The Harvard study focused on over 1,100 firefighters with a median age of 39.
- The exact results might not be applicable to men of other age groups or to women, researchers warn.
On Thursday, New Zealand moved to ban an array of semi-automatic guns and firearms components following a mass shooting that killed 50 people.
- Gun control supporters are pointing to the ban as an example of swift, decisive action that the U.S. desperately needs.
- Others note the inherent differences between the two nations, arguing that it is a good thing that it is relatively hard to pass such legislation in such a short timeframe.
- The ban will surely shape future conversations about gun control in the U.S.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.