A Lebanese doctor “accidentally” discovered the on-off switch for consciousness in the brain. Dr. Mohammad Koubeissi is working on treatments for epilepsy, but when he noticed something curious in his results, he worked day and night trying to understand. He explains his breakthrough using a metaphor: “A car on the road has many parts that facilitate its movement – the gas, the transmission, the engine – but there’s only one spot where you turn the key and it all switches on and works together. So while consciousness is a complicated process…we may have found the key.”
Learning about Dr. Koubeissi, who went to the American University of Beirut Medical School, reminds you to stay curious no matter what. He says, “fascinating phenomena are not infrequent…What we have to do is keep our eyes opened.”
It’s important to note the limitations of the study, such as the fact that this was the result of one patient’s case. But as Kareem Shaheen, a science writer, explains, “the find could be used in an attempt to revive coma patients in a vegetative state, in the study of epilepsy treatment, or to gain a greater understanding of mental illnesses like schizophrenia. And it could also open doors to questions of a more philosophical bent, such as whether animals, or even man-made machines, can be considered conscious”.
At BarakaBits we’re excited about the potential of the idea; great scientists not only advance human knowledge, they inspire you to sit up and appreciate the beauty of how our world works and how it could work in the future.
And that’s #goodnews.
For more information: Read about the science behind the story in the New Scientist, the Daily Star, and the study itself; Learn about Dr. Mohammad Koubeissi, Director of the Epilepsy Center at The George Washington University School of Medicine