Inside the unconscious brain

Inside the unconscious brain
The colored dots in this image represent locations of the electrodes used to measure brain activity. As the brain wave oscillations become more asynchronous relative to the position of the star, the colors fade from red to blue.
Image: Laura Lewis

A new study from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reveals, for the first time, what happens inside the brain as patients lose consciousness during anesthesia.

By monitoring brain activity as patients were given a common anesthetic, the researchers were able to identify a distinctive brain activity pattern that marked the loss of consciousness. This pattern, characterized by very slow oscillation, corresponds to a breakdown of communication between different brain regions, each of which experiences short bursts of activity interrupted by longer silences.

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