A team of researchers has found an “engine of consciousness” in the brain — a region where, in monkeys at least, even a little jump start will make them wake up from anesthesia.
Consciousness is a mystery. We don’t know for certain why creatures are sometimes awake and sometimes asleep, or which mechanisms in the brain are most important for a conscious state. In this new paper, though, researchers turned up some important clues.
Using electrodes across the brains of awake and sleeping macaques, as well as macaques under different forms of anesthesia, the team found two key pathways in the monkeys’ brains for consciousness. The researchers also found a specific brain region that seems to get those pathways going, like an engine they could start using some highly specialized jumper cables. That region is known as the central lateral thalamus.