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Feb 24, 2020

Scientists Jump-Started Consciousness in Monkeys

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Built on decades of previous research, a team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison teased out a tiny chunk of brain tissue within the thalamus, a nub above the brain stem, as a critical part of NCC. As proof of concept, they gave it several bouts of electrical shocks, and restored awareness in unconscious monkeys under heavy anesthesia.

The crux? As soon as the electrical stimulation stopped, the monkeys’ awareness also slipped away.

Although the thalamus has long been thought of as somehow involved in supporting consciousness, the study is one of the first to pinpoint exact neural circuits—highways between the thalamus and parts of the cortex—as “switches” for consciousness that we can control using brain stimulation. And that’s wonderful news for comatose patients.

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