Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain Energy Use Key To Understanding Consciousness

Date:
June 16, 2009
Source:
Yale University
Summary:
High levels of brain energy are required to maintain consciousness, a finding which suggests a new way to understand the properties of this still mysterious state of being, researchers report.

High levels of brain energy are required to maintain consciousness, a finding which suggests a new way to understand the properties of this still mysterious state of being, Yale University researchers report.

At its simplest, consciousness can be defined as the ability to respond meaningfully to external stimuli. Most studies of consciousness have used imaging technology to try to pinpoint areas of brain activity during tasks such as memorization or problem solving.

There are two problems with such an approach, said Robert G. Shulman, Sterling Professor Emeritus of molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale and lead author of the paper, to be published this week in the online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. First, functional magnetic resonance imaging has shown that many areas of the brain, not just one or two, are recruited during tasks such as memory tests and are scant help in studying the state of being conscious. Second, the amount of energy used in such tasks is minute, about one percent of baseline energy available to the brain.

"Neuroimaging has been looking at the tip of the iceberg," Shulman said. "We looked at the rest of the iceberg."

What is the other 99 percent of energy consumption doing?

Shulman and colleagues have proposed that it is needed to maintain a person in a state of consciousness. Heavily anesthetized people are known to show approximately 50 percent reductions in cerebral energy consumption. When the paws of lightly anesthetized rats with rather high baseline energy levels were stroked, fMRI signals were received in the sensory cortex and in many other areas of the brain. In heavily anesthetized rats the signal stopped at the sensory cortex. Both the total energy and the fMRI signals changed when the person or animal lost consciousness.

"What we propose is that a conscious person requires a high level of brain energy," Shulman said.

The finding has profound implications for our understanding of the connection between the brain and consciousness, Shulman said. "You can think of consciousness not as a property of the brain, but of the person."

Anesthesiologists consider a person to be in a behavioral state of consciousness when he or she can respond to simple stimuli. Properties of this state, such as the high energy and the delocalized fMRI signals, allow the person to perform the interconnected activities that make up our everyday lives. Shulman suggests that these more energetic properties of the brain support human behavior and should be considered when interpreting the much weaker signals that are typically recorded during fMRI studies.

Other Yale researchers involved in the study are professors Fahmeed Hyder and Douglas L. Rothman.

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Yale University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Yale University. "Brain Energy Use Key To Understanding Consciousness." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 June 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615171517.htm>.
Yale University. (2009, June 16). Brain Energy Use Key To Understanding Consciousness. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615171517.htm
Yale University. "Brain Energy Use Key To Understanding Consciousness." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090615171517.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

'Fat Shaming' Might Actually Cause Weight Gain

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) A study for University College London suggests obese people who are discriminated against gain more weight than those who are not. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins