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Start > Resource centre > Articles > Can an unconscious person be aware of his surroundings? Part 1

An unconscious person appears as if asleep but cannot be woken up. He does not respond to voices or sounds and we naturally assume that he is not aware of what is going on around him. A recent report in The Lancet suggests that some individuals who are unconscious (in a coma) can be aware of what is going on around them. This is making us re-examine our ideas about how the brain functions and what happens in an unconscious person's brain.

We know that certain brain areas are important for consciousness. For example we have brain systems to keep us awake and to focus our attention (e.g. on what we are reading rather than on the music from the next room).. However, we know nothing about how the brain thinks. We do not know how a person initiates plans, makes decisions, or where the part of the brain we call, "I" is. We need a totally new concept of brain function to understand how the brain thinks.

Oxford mathematician, Sir Roger Penrose, sees this as the "ultimate" mystery. His theory is that the brain. uses quantum mechanics to think. Penrose believes that quantum mechanics governs the way multiple tiny tubes called microtubules, that are found inside nerve cells, work together to produce consciousness.

Teacher: Michael
Many articles taken from 'A word with the doctor', by Dr. John Windsor.


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