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Booting up human consciousness

UPDATE: I would love to hear your personal brain “reboot” following anaesthesia story. Mine? I had endoscopy once, wasn’t completely under with the valium, in and out of consciousness, when it was done I remember looking at the clock on the wall and “seeing” it going backwards. I also recall leaving a dental surgery as a child and thinking the lady walking me to the train home was the nurse when in fact it was my mother!

When you come round from an anaesthetic there’s often an initial sense of delirious struggle before you climb fully to awareness and orientation. It’s almost like a low-level computer booting from its BIOS prior to the GUI kicking in.

Scientists reckon they have now imaged this process and suggest that “primitive” consciousness emerges first as we awaken from anaesthesia. According to brain imaging studies of healthy volunteers by Harry Scheinin and colleagues at the University of Turku, in Finland, working with US collaborators they have followed the process of consciousness returning. The images show that lower, older, more primitive parts of the brain boot up first before the “higher” functioning, more human neocortex kicks in. The findings offer a glimpse not only at the level of consciousness our more “primitive” evolutionary ancestors may have had, but offer clues about exactly what consciousness is.

Human consciousness illuminated.

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