Media New Atlas reported that we do not know much about the functioning of the human body and the brain, and consciousness itself remains one of the great mysteries of science. One of the central problems in neuroscience is to figure out where to appear in the brain’s consciousness, the ability to experience internal and external sensations. The researchers report that specific areas of the brain, the central outer thalamus, appear to play a key role.
In a study published in the journal Neuron, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison showed that at a frequency of 50 Hz, electrical stimulation of the central outer hypothalamus can awaken the anesthetic macaques and trigger normal sobriety behavior.
Scientists have long studied the thalamus near the brain stem deep in the brain to understand what role the thalamus plays in sleep, wakefulness, consciousness and astuteness. But the study, which applied electrical stimulation to specific regions, narrowed the search beyond ever. The electrodes used in the study were better suited to the shape of the brain structure they designed to work on, and electrical stimulation was designed to mimic the normal activity of the waking brain.
The researchers modeled the macaques as animals. By studying animals that are awake, sleeping, and anaesthetic, they were able to narrow down the areas of the brain involved in consciousness to more specific areas than other studies. They were also able to exclude some of the areas suggested in previous conscious-related neurorelated studies. They eventually concentrated in the central outer hypothalamus deep in the forebrain.
“We found that when we stimulate this small brain region, we can wake up animals and restore all the neural activity you usually see in the cortex when you’re awake,” said study senior author and associate professor Yuri Saalmann. They act like they’re awake. When we turn off the stimulus, the animals immediately become unconscious. “
The researchers hope the findings may help people with “consciousness disorders” – for example, through awareness-boosting devices that can lift people out of comas or allow people with seizure sleeping sickness to self-stimulate when they become ill. What’s more, anesthesiologists can use these findings to keep a close eye on whether a patient is in the right condition and when to start waking up, avoiding some rare but traumatic operating room experiences.
The study was published in the journal Neuron.