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Scientists discover consciousness off switch

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WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) --For centuries, both philosophers and scientists have been trying figure out exactly what "consciousness" is, where it comes from, and how it works.

While they haven't now answered all those questions, researchers have located the mechanism deep in the human brain that seems to control it -- an on-off switch for consciousness.

In a new study -- published this week in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior -- neurologist Mohamad Koubeissi of George Washington University recounted how he and his colleagues were able to turn a woman's consciousness off and on by stimulating her claustrum.

Now it is just a question of time until they sell us an external handle....

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Posted (edited)

What? jeeze, my husband found his years ago, its called "wife wants you to do some DIY" and flip! HIS OFF!

ps: doesn`t alcohol do that too?

Edited by freetoroam
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This has some intriguing consequences in the area of medical ethics and resuscitation.

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the description kinda sounds like what happens when someone does a lobotomy.

Not that I have any sort of point, just random connection

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I think this thread should also be in the Philosophy and Psychology Forum because lots of people think there is a universal consciousness etc. I think they'd say it's just switching off the receiver.

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This has some intriguing consequences in the area of medical ethics and resuscitation.

Quite so, and especially in anesthesiology. It could mean the end of a whole medical specialty.

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Quite so, and especially in anesthesiology. It could mean the end of a whole medical specialty.

Personally, I think it has the possibility of a whole new field in neurology -- but will also bring some difficult decisions when dealing with brain-damaged people.

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I think this thread should also be in the Philosophy and Psychology Forum because lots of people think there is a universal consciousness etc. I think they'd say it's just switching off the receiver.

Why shouldn't it be in the science section?

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snapback.pngStarMountainKid, on 03 July 2014 - 10:49 AM, said:

I think this thread should also be in the Philosophy and Psychology Forum because lots of people think there is a universal consciousness etc. I think they'd say it's just switching off the receiver.

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"Stimulating her claustrum?"

In my experience, that usually wakes them up.

Harte

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Interesting, but it seems like they were unable to determine if the woman was truley unconcious.

Maybe it's just semantics, but in the article it is written

"when shocked, the woman remained open-eyed, but seemingly blank - staring ahead, unaware of the world around her."

Why is she "seemingly" blank - staring ahead? Couldn't they just ask the woman a few questions so they could see if she was able to respond, if she was councious or oblivious to the scientists presence?

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I think maybe the phrase "unaware of the world around her" contains the answer to your doubt.

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Interesting, but it seems like they were unable to determine if the woman was truley unconcious.

Maybe it's just semantics, but in the article it is written

Why is she "seemingly" blank - staring ahead? Couldn't they just ask the woman a few questions so they could see if she was able to respond, if she was councious or oblivious to the scientists presence?

Well she was unaware of the world around her so..
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Yes, you are right.

I think i just want some more details about her seemingly unconcious state of mind.

It is definitely very interesting.

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This has more information http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329762.700-consciousness-onoff-switch-discovered-deep-in-brain.html

When the team zapped the area with high frequency electrical impulses, the woman lost consciousness. She stopped reading and stared blankly into space, she didn't respond to auditory or visual commands and her breathing slowed. As soon as the stimulation stopped, she immediately regained consciousness with no memory of the event. The same thing happened every time the area was stimulated during two days of experiments (Epilepsy and Behavior, doi.org/tgn).

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Boy I do hope she signed several dozen consent forms.

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"Christof Koch, whose early research enabled the latest revelations, says the search to understand consciousness is essential.

"Ultimately, if we know how consciousness is created and which parts of the brain are involved then we can understand who has it and who doesn't," said Koch. "Do robots have it? Do fetuses? Does a cat or dog or worm?"

Hmm, let me think about that for a minute. Why does it have to be to limited to "consciousness or no consciousness"? Why can't it be a continuum like so many other evolutionary traits? Do chimps have consciousness? Did archaic hominids that went extinct only 12,000 years have consciousness? You don't have to answer that, it's a rhetorical question.

Nowhere in the UPI news story is consciousness defined.

"(UPI) --For centuries, both philosophers and scientists have been trying figure out exactly what "consciousness" is, where it comes from, and how it works."

Well, if they don't know what it is, how can they be certain that they can control it?

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The way I think about it is there is life, then there is sentience, then there is consciousness and finally intelligence.

First living things function through evolved reflexes, the way a motion detector causes a door to swing open. These tend to often lead to maladaptive behaviors and take forever to evolve, and many examples, such as the lobsters lined up marching out to sea, are known.

Then pleasure/displeasure centers evolved and certain chemicals (serotonin pathways and so on) appeared, apparently in dinosaurs as they are found in mammals and birds. This enables behavior that is far more flexible and alterable, based on a system of rewards (pleasure) and penalties. This is sentience. It also becomes useful for rendering the outside world of vision and sound and so on ("qualia"). And, of course, pain signals come connected with penalty and hence are strongly reinforced.

Actual consciousness is a mystery, and seems limited to a few mammals and maybe my African Grey. We are only now evolving intelligence and need to get on with it.

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I dont think I would trust anyone to zap my brain. Not unless my life depended on it, I wouldnt do it for an experiment.

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It doesn't really sound much different than a seizure minus the body twitching.

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Posted (edited)

Actual consciousness is a mystery, and seems limited to a few mammals and maybe my African Grey. We are only now evolving intelligence and need to get on with it.

I personally believe most of the animals if not all, have conscience. The best test and easy I find is putting a mirror in their face. They are not reacting in the same fashion as if there will be another animal in their face. They self identifies themselves. I believe due to The existence of conscience.

Edited by qxcontinuum
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I also think all animals have consciousness, though not all equally developed. As for intelligence, all animals have as much inteligence as they need. It is only humans who have more intelligence that they need, and this extra bit has not done them any favors, it's only gotten them into trouble.

Perhpase when we fully understand the brain and consciousness, we'll find a way to limit this dangerous excessive cleverness we possess, and then we can return to some form of contentment. Happily tending to our own gardens, for instance.

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I've read and heard , though, that when you "go under" for surgery with anesthesia you have no consciousness... a dreamless sleep, so to speak.

Would not this be the same thing? So this is nothing new?

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Posted (edited)

The best test and easy I find is putting a mirror in their face. They are not reacting in the same fashion as if there will be another animal in their face. They self identifies themselves. I believe due to The existence of conscience.

The only animals that we know that have self awareness (the mirror test) are humans, the higher primates, dolphins, orcas and elephants. No other animal that has ever been tested has shown self awareness.

Edit: It would seem that European Magpies are also among that list of animals.

Edited by Imaginarynumber1

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Very interesting the brain has still many mysteries that have not Ben found.

I would let them zap my brain,

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