Scientists have long attempted to identify the seat of your conscious. So far the exact location in your brain has eluded scientists. Francis Crick who won a Nobel prize for the discovery of the DNA was a proponent of the theory that your conscious had to involve several sensory pathways in order to be able to perceive our environment as one unified experience as opposed to multiple senses. For example when you see a flower, smell its fragrance, touch its petals, know its name you have a unified sense of the flower. Along with his colleague Christof Koch, Francis postulated that the claustrum a thin sheet deep within the brain could be the seat of the conscious. The claustrum is a thin sheet like structure beneath the inner structure of the neocortex.  Think of it as a conductor that brings all your senses together to provide you a unified view.

Scientists from George Washington University recently tested this theory on a woman who had epilepsy. When they stimulated her claustrum with electrodes she lost consciousness. She stopped responding to auditory and visual stimulus and when the stimulation stopped woke up without any recollection of what had happened. The scientists tested her to make sure that she had not just lost consciousness and that instead her conscious had indeed switched off. Their tests showed that she had indeed switched off. While this was just one study on a single person, scientists are excited by the possibility of triggering a state of unconscious. Several derivative benefits include curing of cognitive disorders. What was fascinating for me was that apparently the woman remained awake but was uncounscious.

I have jokingly called for an on-off button for people. I can think of several people who I would unhesitatingly use the button on, more likely to turn them off. How I would get the electrode into their brains remains a challenge that I hope to solve this weekend. Happy weekend to all my readers.


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.