The human brain can be switched on and off, just like a car engine. According to scientists at the George Washington University in Washington D.C., stimulating a specific part of the brain can turn a person’s brain off. The discovery was published in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior last week, and was first reported by New Scientist.
Claustrum is the on/off button for the human brain
It was an accidental discovery as researchers were working to figure out the cause of a patient’s seizures. Dr Mohamad Koubeissi and his fellow researchers were studying a 54-year old epileptic patient. With the help of electrodes, they were looking for claustrum, a very thin sheet of neurons present at the lower part of the central brain.
The researchers found that electrical impulses of claustrum sent the patient to ‘sleep’ on several occasions. She lost consciousness, didn’t respond to commands, and stared blankly into the space, Her breathing slowed. She regained consciousness after the stimulation of the claustrum was stopped. However, she had no memory of what had happened just before.
It’s the first time a human being has stimulated claustrum
Over the next two days, the same thing happened when scientists stimulated the claustrum. Further studies confirmed that it wasn’t just a side effect of a seizure. It’s the first time the claustrum in a human brain has been stimulated by a human being. The claustrum has long been a cause of debate among scientists.
Now the next step is to emulate the same effects in other patients to see exactly what role claustrum has in human brain consciousness. The discovery could prove to be very useful in some areas of medicine. This “switch on/off” finding can be used for people who are trapped in coma or epilepsy or are in a semiconscious state. Doctors can simply stimulate the region to help such people regain a conscious state.
Now a lot depends on the advancement of the technique.