We are capable of flying to space, analyzing distant planets, eliminate or treat dozens of diseases, and many more, but we still don’t know how consciousness takes place in the brain. Consciousness, the human ability to learn about the world and tell the others, remains a mystery. At least until now, as some scientists claimed that they might have identified the brain patterns of human consciousness.
“While scientists have been preoccupied with understanding consciousness for centuries, it remains one of the most important unanswered questions of modern neuroscience. Now our new study, published in Science Advances, sheds light on the mystery by uncovering networks in the brain that are at work when we are conscious,” said Davinia Fernandez-Espejo, a researcher from the School of Psychology and Centre for Human Brain Health, University of Birmingham, and the author of a report on the study.
“We know that complex brain areas including the prefrontal cortex or the precuneus, which are responsible for a range of higher cognitive functions, are typically involved in conscious thought. However, large brain areas do many things. We, therefore, wanted to find out how consciousness is represented in the brain on the level of specific networks,” Fernandez-Espejo added.
Scientists Might Have Identified The Brain Patterns of Human Consciousness
The new study, conducted in collaboration of scientists from seven countries, has discovered the specific brain signatures that indicate consciousness. The research relied on scanning brains rather than on individual reports, to eliminate the possibility of biased results.
“We used a technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which allows us to measure the activity of the brain and the way some regions ‘communicate’ with others. Specifically, when a brain region is more active, it consumes more oxygen and needs a higher blood supply to meet its demands. We can detect these changes even when the participants are at rest and measure how it varies across regions to create patterns of connectivity across the brain,” the researchers added.
“We found two main patterns of communication across regions. One simply reflected physical connections of the brain, such as communication only between pairs of regions that have a direct physical link between them… One represented very complex brain-wide dynamic interactions across a set of 42 brain regions that belong to six brain networks with important roles in cognition (see image above). This complex pattern was almost only present in people with some level of consciousness,” Fernandez-Espejo explained.