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Medicine Science

New Imaging Technique Helps Explain Unconsciousness 78

smitty777 writes "A new imaging technique called fEITER (for functional Electrical Impedance Tomography by Evoked Response) attempts to explain the process of slipping into unconsciousness. The fEITER is a portable device that creates 3D imagery based on evoked potentials measured hundreds of times a second. The interesting finding from these studies is that unconsciousness appears to result from a buildup of inhibitor neurons. From the article: 'Our findings suggest that unconsciousness may be the increase of inhibitory assemblies across the brain's cortex. These findings lend support to Greenfield's hypothesis of neural assemblies forming consciousness.'"
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New Imaging Technique Helps Explain Unconsciousness

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  • by bughunter ( 10093 ) <bughunter&earthlink,net> on Saturday June 18, 2011 @04:00PM (#36486700) Journal


    The machine itself is a portable, light-weight monitor, which can fit on a small trolley. It has 32 electrodes that are fitted around the patient’s head. A small, high-frequency electric current (too small to be felt or have any effect) is passed between two of the electrodes, and the voltages between other pairs of electrodes are measured in a process that takes less than one-thousandth of a second.

    While we're still a long way away from a practical direct neural interface, this certainly looks like a step in the right direction. They've demonstrated that the measurements are possible, and at a sample rate that is useful. Certainly there's room for improvement in sensitivity, sample rate, and resolution as well as in miniaturization.

    When they can reduce this from a trolleycart -sized instrument to something one can support on one's head, then we'll see some more practical and less academic applications. (Yes, like porn. And games. And real virtual reality control of UAVs and waldoes.) Keep in mind that in the 80's, realtime Heads-Up Displays were this large and cumbersome... now look at them.

    It really is illuminating to see how little we know about the nature of consciousness and thought, and how far away we still are from technologically-aided introspection.

  • by sgage ( 109086 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @04:55PM (#36486868)

    This is absurd. For a start, we don't have clue one about how to explain consciousness. Secondly, recording physical correlates to unconsciousness is not an explanation. Like so much of this stuff, it is description masquerading as explanation. Not bad as a start, perhaps, but don't call it "explanation".

  • by SydShamino ( 547793 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @05:48PM (#36487110)

    Well if neural inhibitors (which interfere with the processing of certain parts of our neural network) cause us to lose consciousness, then one could hypothesize that those parts of our neural network must play a role in consciousness. And that makes us at least a little closer to understanding it.

  • by TrekkieGod ( 627867 ) on Saturday June 18, 2011 @06:44PM (#36487344) Homepage Journal

    I mean, a blow to the head will also cause us to lose consciousness. But it won't help us understand what makes us conscious.

    Actually, it does. It tells us that the organ responsible for consciousness resides in the head. Similarly, we've discovered a lot about what different regions of the brain are responsible for by looking at people who received brain damage to different areas and looking at what they were now unable to do as a result. You know the brain is responsible for consciousness, this can help narrow down what brain activity is involved by looking at what activity is inhibited when you're unconscious.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 18, 2011 @07:41PM (#36487656)

    It's funny how people who are way too full of themselves, always say "we", when they mean "I".

    Conciousness is a word used for simple and stupid artifact of a concept we humans think we need, to make us feel special.
    There, I said it.

    There were times, where words like this were used to differentiate humans from other animals, or even from other humans. Or when we thought we were the center of the universe.

    In reality, there is no thing that that concept could describe. If only because it's that vague. And we like it that way.

    Our brains are just pattern/similarity detectors with the purpose of predicting the future, to gain an advantage over other blobs trying to do the same.

    There's nothing special there. Humans are not special. You... are not special.
    Just let it go.

Basic is a high level languish. APL is a high level anguish.