Melanie Moran in Medical Xpress:
Where in your brain do you exist? Is your awareness of the world around you and of yourself as an individual the result of specific, focused changes in your brain, or does that awareness come from a broad network of neural activity? How does your brain produce awareness?
Vanderbilt University researchers took a significant step toward answering these longstanding questions with a recent brainimaging study, in which they discovered global changes in how brain areas communicate with one another during awareness. Their findings, which were published March 9 in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, challenge previous theories that hypothesized much more restricted changes were responsible for producing awareness.
“Identifying the fingerprints of consciousness in humans would be a significant advancement for basic and medical research, let alone its philosophical implications on the underpinnings of the human experience,” said René Marois, professor and chair of psychology at Vanderbilt University and senior author of the study. “Many of the cognitive deficits observed in various neurological diseases may ultimately stem from changes in how information is communicated throughout the brain.”
Using graph theory, a branch of mathematics concerned with explaining the interactive links between members of a complex network, such as social networks or flight routes, the researchers aimed to characterize how connections between the various parts of the brain were related to awareness.