Scientists have apparently found an “on-off” switch to the human brain, which can turn on or turn off human consciousness.
A team of researchers from George Washington University studied an epileptic patient for this study. They noticed that by sending high-frequency electrical impulses to a certain part of the patient’s brain, they could cause the person to lose consciousness.
When they stopped the impulses, the patient woke up from her unconscious state, without being able to remember a thing. While having the impulses sent into her brain, the patient stared blankly into space and her breathing visibly slowed.
The part of the brain being stimulated was the patient’s claustrum, which is essentially a thin sheet of neurons located underneath the inner part of the neocortex.
Although high-frequency might not be entirely useful in medicine, low-frequency impulses could have an enormous impact on epileptic patients. By administering low-frequency deep brain stimulation, the researchers were able to reduce epileptic seizures by 92 percent in patients without causing them to lose memory.
“This is an innovative clinical trial that aims to identify novel modalities to reduce seizures in individuals with medically-intractable temporal lobe epilepsy, who are at risk of sustaining memory decline with the surgical removal of the temporal lobe,” said Dr. Koubeiss, the leader of the study.
“Over the next few years, we hope that the results will be similar to previous research, leading to better treatment options for these patients.”
This study could also help out patients who are in a coma. If electrical impulses can put someone into a coma-like state, scientists think it might be able to bring a person out of one as well.
The study was published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior.