Asleep or Awake?

Somebody pinch me! Am I REALLY awake?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Brain injury can make it difficult to tell if someone’s conscious or not! Patients in a coma may respond to things, but only as a reflex. How can doctors tell the difference?

Meet Gustavo Deco from Pompeu Fabra University. He and his international team used MRI to study brain activity in almost two hundred people. They compared healthy people with those in a persistent vegetative state.

What’s the difference? The team discovered that, in response to stimulus, conscious people’s brains tend to light up EVERYWHERE! This isn’t seen in the unconscious.

For example, a pinch causes the pain sensors of the brain to light up. In unconscious brains, that’s all that happens. But conscious brains also activate many indirectly related areas! Perhaps they were reminded of a schoolyard bully, or a run-in with a lobster!

These are BIG insights for consciousness studies! The team believes it points the way to RESTORING consciousness!

But awake or not, dear listener, keep YOUR eyes on the road!