Influential theories suggest that consciousness depends on the brain's ability to discriminate between a specific sensory input and a large set of alternatives, akin to being able to choose one outcome among many. Indeed, several studies in humans using fMRI have identified a rich set of resting states of cortical activity at the anatomical macro scale, that is, at the level of large brain areas. A researcher team led by Columbia University, however, hypothesized that a person's ability to discriminate between a set of alternatives at any moment should be rooted in micro-patterns of activity, or micro states, at the level of local neuronal ensembles -- the functional building blocks of neural circuits.
And in a first of its kind study, researchers from Columbia's Rafael Yuste's Laboratory used cellular resolution in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in mice to investigate changes in the local repertoire of neuronal micro states during anesthesia. The team found that anesthesia disrupts the number of neural patterns by reducing both network micro states and neuronal ensembles in the cortex, and confirmed their findings in micro electrode array recordings from two human subjects. Their results, published today in the journal, Cell Systems , indicate that the functional connectivity of the brain during mLOC breaks down across micro- and macro anatomical scales.
A popular notion maintains that while mLOC is associated with a macroscale breakdown of functional connectivity, local networks keep displaying dynamics similar to the awake state, yet in an isolated and insular manner, said Michael Wenzel, the lead author on the paper. Our results indicate that the loss of consciousness could arise from alterations in the local microcircuit, which would secondarily generate deficits in macroscale connectivity" added Wenzel, who at the time of study was an Associate Research Scientist in the Rafael Yuste Lab.
The study, "Reduced Repertoire of Cortical Microstates and Neuronal Ensembles in Medically Induced Loss of Consciousness," offers a foundation for understanding how dynamics of local neuronal ensembles could contribute to the loss or emergence of conscious states. The authors noted that mechanistic studies on the role of local circuits in the loss or gain of consciousness remain challenging, thought they hope their research adds to the basic science of the neural circuitry.
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Half say they often go hungry and few have permanent places to live, according to a survey of 88 migrants. Another neuroscientist—Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has come to the conclusion that consciousness is a complicated interweaving of sensory and cognitive inputs. One of the more peculiar, and more intriguing theories, comes from the minds of two individuals from two very different backgrounds. The theory states that EEG rhythms, or brain waves, derive from deeper level quantum vibrations found somewhere within the cells of the brain.
The OORT holds its ground in the relatively recent discovery by a group of researchers at the National Institute of Material Sciences in Tsukuba, Japan, of quantum vibrations within the microtubules of neurons. These vibrations are important to the theory because, as stated before, what Penrose and Hameroff suggested was that there is a quantum process called quantum coherence occurring somewhere in the neurons of the brain.
Microtubules have many known functions within the cell: they provide structure and support for the cell; they allow intracellular transport of vesicles; they are a key component in chromosome segregation; and they provide cell mobility, through organelles known as flagella and cilia. Microtubules can be analogously thought of as the train tracks that transport goods from one side of the country to the other; the steel beams that hold a building up; or the propellers that push a boat through water.
There is a theory that free will is non-existent, and that every decision one makes, every thought one has, is the result of some previous situation, or cause. For example, if a man made a decision to get something to eat, it was because he was hungry; his decision to get something to eat was determined by his hunger.
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The food that he went to buy was also determined, by an exposure to that particular food at a certain age; the grocery store that he went to was determined by the prices at that location, et cetera. Everything that happens, from the Big Bang, to the food a man fills his fridge with, is determined by some preceding event.