Study reveals the gateway to conscious awareness

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Sumary of Study reveals the gateway to conscious awareness:

  • During our waking hours, the brain is receiving a near-constant influx of sensory signals of various strengths..
  • For decades, scientists have wondered why some signals rise to the light of conscious awareness while other signals of a similar strength remain in the dark shadows of unconsciousness..
  • In a new study from the Department of Anesthesiology and Center for Consciousness Science at Michigan Medicine, researchers identify a key area in the cortex that appears to be the gate of conscious awareness..
  • and their team, attempted to confirm that this switch occurs in a part of the brain called the anterior insular cortex, acting as a type of gate between low level sensory information and higher level awareness..
  • They were then asked to imagine themselves playing tennis, walking down a path or squeezing their hand, as well as asked to perform a motor activity (squeeze a rubber ball) as they gradually lost consciousness and regained it again after the propofol was stopped..
  • Previous research has shown that mental imagery produces brain activity similar to actually performing the activity..
  • When participants imagine themselves playing tennis, the part of the brain responsible for controlling movement lights up..
  • Other regions of the brain become deactivated when performing tasks, as mental attention is focused on the activity..
  • When they completely lost consciousness, their corresponding brain areas also showed no activation in response to mental imagery tasks..
  • As they regained some consciousness, they regained some activity related to mental imagery and with full consciousness shortly thereafter, their brain showed normal activation patterns..
  • Looking for the correlation across these states of consciousness revealed activation of the anterior insular cortex played a role in the successful switch between these activations and deactivations..
  • “But when you lose consciousness, the anterior insular cortex is deactivated and network shifts in the brain that support consciousness are disrupted.”.
  • The anterior insular cortex, he explains, might act as a filter that allows only the most important information to enter conscious awareness…

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