Scientists May Have Found Our Brain's On/Off Switch
By Mick Joest 2014-07-09 01:27:56
Scientists may have discovered how to turn your mind on and off. If the results turn out to be valid, this could radically change the way we perform various medical tasks. (Doctors, not Cinema Blend writers.) Scientists hope it will also give us a better understanding of the human consciousness. This fascinating advancement, like many findings in science, was discovered by accident.
Scientists at George Washington University were doing electrotherapy on a woman with epilepsy when the discovery was made and later published in the journal Epilepsy and Behavior. NewScientist reports that when probing deep within the woman’s mind to discovery the cause of her epilepsy, they stimulated an unused area called the claustrum. Upon stimulation, the woman ceased to respond to any visual or audio cues. The patient, who had been reading, appeared to shut down like a robot, according to researchers' accounts. After they ceased stimulation, the woman had no recollection of the time she had been “off”.
While the initial results seem promising, the brain experimented on is not considered normal. The woman who showed the peculiar results was missing the hippocampus of her brain, which was initially believed to be the cause of her epilepsy. Scientists also need to determine the minimum stimulation required to make this happen, and to guarantee that the consciousness will not “turn on” again at will. The possibilities of this new procedure are incredibly interesting though, in terms of medical surgery.
Imagine a drug-free surgery where you feel no pain. The removal of drugs would take away some risk in surgeries performed on the elderly and others with allergies. That being said, if you have to drill into the brain to reach this area, I’m not sure a lot of people will be keen to do that. For it to be practical, scientists would have to develop a way to stimulate the area from outside the skull.
If scientists could successfully achieve this “on/off” switch outside the cranium, it could drastically change a lot in life. Unruly arrests could be handled with a simple zap to the back of the skull. In fact, ANYONE with the right technology could incapacitate you and bring you back without you having any idea something happened. That’s a scary possibility that I hope doesn’t escape the operating room!