Harvard Research Has Discovered Where The Consciousness IsBy Chris Brandt, UniversityHerald Reporter
Throughout history philosophers and scientists have struggled to define human consciousness and more so where it is located in the brain. Each of them has their own version of what consciousness is but no one has really pinpointed which region of the brain causes it. However, a group of researchers from Harvard has discovered which area of the brain might be responsible for that.
Michael Fox, a Harvard Medical School assistant professor at Beth Israel Deaconess, said that they have found a connection between the brain regions that are responsible for arousal and awareness, both of which are prerequisites of consciousness.
According to neurology arousal is regulated by the brainstem that touches the spinal cord and is responsible for the sleep-wake cycle as well as the heartbeat. Awareness, on the other hand, has long been believed to be somewhere near the cortex, the part of the brain that is responsible for most of the higher functions.
They were able to arrive at that conclusion after examining 36 patients with brain lesions, where 12 are in a coma. After mapping out the injuries, the scientists found out that a specific area of the brain called the dorsolateral pontine tegmentum is affected. After that, they mapped the healthy human brain based on the human connectome in order to find out what other areas of the brain are connected with the brain area affected in the coma.
They find out two more areas - one is found in the left, ventral, anterior insula while the other is on the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex (pACC), both of which are also related to awareness and arousal. Now that they have identified the connectivity of these areas, Fox said that the discovery can be used in the future to stimulate the brain of those who are in a coma.
The research has been published in the journal Neurology.