Scientists are working hard to uncover the mystery of why we are conscious, with teams all over the world carrying out studies on the brain aimed at cracking the consciousness code.
One of the most recent studies showed a clear relationship between two brain networks critical to consciousness.
Switching between different brain networks happens constantly, as does simultaneous use of multiple networks; we use both the frontoparietal network and the visual network to analyze and react to images we see or words we read, for example.
“We know the brain is changing second to second with different networks engaged in collaboration,” said Anthony Hudetz, Professor of Anesthesiology and Director of the Center for Consciousness Science, and a senior author of the paper.
The researchers saw that the brain quickly transitions from one network to another in regular patterns, and the conscious brain cycles through a structured pattern of states over time, including frequent transitions to the default mode and dorsal attention networks.
This is key: though the experiences of unresponsive patients would have differed depending on how they became unconscious-their brain networks would have been impacted and reorganized in different ways-they all shared the same isolation of these (DMN and DAT) networks.
Now we have further proof that, one, you don’t use the brain networks required for self-reflection and external engagement at the same time, and two, you don’t use much of either when you’re unconscious.