Brain switch that turns off consciousness discovered

For the first time, researchers have been able to switch off consciousness in a woman by electrically
stimulating a single brain area. The discovery suggests that a single area - the claustrum - might be integral to combining disparate brain activity into a seamless package of thoughts, sensations and emotions. Mohamad Koubeissi at the George Washington University in Washington DC and his colleagues said they managed to switch a woman’s consciousness off and on by stimulating her claustrum - a thin, sheet-like structure that lies hidden deep inside the brain.

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, ‘New Scientist’ reported.
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.


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