Monday, December 5, 2011

Brain more active when unconscious

In June 2011, a team of researchers from the University of Manchester reported to the European Anesthesiology Congress in Amsterdam on the first real-time brain scan of a person shifting from awake to anesthetized.  They were able to make the scan because of the invention of the compact, portable Functional Electrical Impedance Tomography by Evoke Response (fEITER) device.

The 1-minute video is stunning because it seems to demonstrate that brain activity actually increases as a person becomes unconscious --

The researchers interpret this increase in brain activity as an increase in inhibition – the brain is actively tamping itself down.

But, perhaps there is another way of interpreting these images.  Perhaps the anesthesia (propofol!) is disinhibiting consciousness, causing greater brain activity.

OK, obviously a certain aspect of consciousness *is* being inhibited – waking, beta-dominated consciousness.  But, in one interview, Brian Pollard, lead investigator, said they could see the unconscious patients’ visual cortex working when he Pollard appeared in their frame of view.  He said:  “The patient is lying still and quietly and there is some activity in the right hand side of the brain, what we suspect is the visual cortex.  We observed in the brain the patient seeing me.”

How is that inhibition or tamping down of neurological activity?!  On the contrary, it demonstrates that neurological activity, perception, and some aspect of consciousness are independent of being awake.

Consider the fact that we now know that people often hear, see, understand, and/or remember what happens while they are under anesthesia.

In another interview, Pollard says, “What we’ve got supports the idea that there are several levels [of consciousness] rather than [an on/off] switch.”

Some people have OBEs under anesthesia.  So, it seems worth investigating whether this particular anesthesia inhibits obvious, waking consciousness in such a way that it liberates or potentiates other aspects of consciousness which are currently considered anomalous, but which are probably a perfectly normal part of life.

Put another way, we may be repressing / inhibiting many capacities while we are awake and under the influence of systemic familial and societal pressures to conform.  These inherent anomalous / psychic / non-local capacities may flourish when we are “unconscious.”

No comments:

Post a Comment