09 November 2016

Physical Source of Consciousness

Scientists have struggled for millennia to understand human consciousness - the awareness of one's existence. Despite advances in neuroscience, we still don't really know where it comes from, and how it arises. But researchers think they might have finally figured out its physical origins, after pinpointing a network of three specific regions in the brain that appear to be crucial to consciousness. For the first time, they found a connection between the brainstem region involved in arousal and regions involved in awareness, two prerequisites for consciousness.

Consciousness is generally thought of as being comprised of two critical components - arousal and awareness. Researchers had already shown that arousal is likely regulated by the brainstem - the portion of the brain that links up with the spinal cord - seeing as it regulates when we sleep and wake, and our heart rate and breathing. Awareness has been more elusive. Researchers have long thought that it resides somewhere in the cortex - the outer layer of the brain - but no one has been able to pinpoint where.

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