For over a hundred years, scientists have been attempting to discover how to switch the human consciousness off and on along with wanting to find out just exactly what it is and where consciousness comes from. Even though there are several questions that are left to be answered, it seems that some investigators may just have found that elusive “off/on switch” they have been so diligently searching for.
A research group at George Washington University have stated they turned off one female’s consciousness by electrically stimulating a part of her brain. This information was printed up in the most recent edition of the Journal of Epilepsy & Behavior and claims the scientists discovered the “switch” on accident while working to pinpoint the cause of the patient’s seizures.
In other media reports, the team was examining the claustrum, which is a thin, sheet like organ in the body which lies deep in the brain. They were probing it with electrodes. That was when the woman happened to unexpectedly fall unconsciousness. It was different from a seizure. That is where an individual’s activity suddenly stops. This female appeared to slow down and started talking in a more quiet tone. She also began moving slower until she became completely silent and was unresponsive to both visual and voice commands. However once all electrical stimulation was turned off, the patient returned to total consciousness except she did not have any memory of what had just occurred.
Noted American neuro-scientist Cristof Koch stated that the study was very intriguing but ultimately scientists have to know how consciousness is created and what parts of the brain are involved. Only then can researchers understand who has it and who does not.
While the presence of such an off/on switch has been recorded in only one individual, such a discovery has the potential to aid people who suffer from epilepsy or who are in a semi-conscious state. This means that such a discovery will most likely be talked about for months ahead. It was explained that when scientists look at individuals in conscious states, they see basically “awake versus sleep” compared to semiconscious states which are more along the lines of being in a coma versus a full vegetative state or even under anesthesia,
Even though it was just one patient, the findings seem to be intriguing to researchers. Koch stated that it was especially interesting due to the fact that the female stayed awake even though she was apparently unconscious. It may have only been one single case study, it really does have the potential to be very informative about what is going on when researchers selectively study consciousness.
It has been at least a hundred years that scientists have attempted to discover just how to switch the human consciousness off and on along with wanting to find out exactly what it is and where consciousness comes from. Even though there are several questions that are left to be answered, it seems that some investigators may just have found that elusive “off/on switch” they have been so diligently searching for.
By Kimberly Ruble