The little known region of the brain called the Claustrum is actually an irregular sheet of neurons that is located within the center of the brain in an area known as the neocortex. The Claustrum has been an area of research in the neuroscience field for the last two centuries, though it was not until recently that a scientific study discovered that this area could be the on/off switch for human consciousness. Because it is believed that the claustrum is found in all forms of mammals, this study provokes more questions that have yet to be answered.
To begin, the human consciousness is the one thing that makes us human and sets us apart from our animal instincts. This is why people who are known to have a low level of consciousness are known to engage in bizarre behaviors or even struggle with certain psychological disorders such as stress, anxiety, and even psychosis. In some circles, you hear about people who worked through these issues by having a conscious awakening. People with a higher consciousness are known to be more selfless, loving, and compassionate and are basically the real leaders in society.
If neuroscience proves that all forms of mammals have a conscience too, then that will make us wonder if we are any better than other forms of animal life. Humans are the highest form of life in the animal kingdom because we have the ability to expand our consciousness through learning and engaging with life.
Simply defined, consciousness has to do with how aware of our surroundings we are. Likewise, a lack thereof is equated with being asleep, either physically or in a moral and spiritual sense. This explains why during brief periods throughout history there have been Awakenings, or eras when the masses suddenly saw the big picture in what was going on around them; usually on the political scene and in many cases, spiritually too.
The area of the claustrom works to bind together all the computations and senses into one single, cohesive expression which integrates all activity from various other regions of the brain to provide a more holistic experience for the individual. This seat of human consciousness is likened to the central processing unit (CPU) of a computer being that without it, you are merely left with a myriad of parts that may theoretically function though they never really get anything done.
The possibility of the claustrom being the on/off switch was actually discovered in a lab experiment at George Washington University in Washington D.C. while the team of scientists were studying a patient to find the cause of their seizures. Once the claustrom was stimulated, the test subject begin to gradually lose consciousness even though they were still awake. The subject did return to consciousness once the stimulation was removed from their claustrom, though they had no recollection that they had even lost consciousness. They sort of just zoned off and stared off into space with a blank expression on their faces.
There is much to be studied in the way of scientific knowledge as, when it comes to science, there are always more questions than answers. Although this new observation could likely lead to more information later about comas and anesthesia’s. While the Claustrum is responsible for holding together all the activity in the human brain, there could be more serious repercussions if a patient is in a minimal state of consciousness; i.e., a coma or under anesthesia. Another question that people who study neuroscience are going to be asking is what organisms are actually conscious? From dogs, cats, to cows, and lastly to a human fetus. This could shed some light in the political arena on the entire pro-life debate concerning the morality of abortions.