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Start > Resource centre > Articles > Can an unconscious person be aware of his surroundings? Part 2

He believes that when one billion microtubules attain the same chemical state for 500 milliseconds, this causes a quantum "event" in the brain and that these events make up our thoughts. We still cannot measure brain "consciousness" but Penrose's theory suggests a way that this may be possible in the future.

The Lancet article suggests that a person may have some awareness of his surroundings even though he is unconscious. Researchers in Holland interviewed 344 patients, who recovered, from a coma after their hearts had stopped beating for up to" five minutes due to a heart attack. Forty-one of these patients said that they were able to recall the period of time when they were unconscious. They were aware that they were "dead" and 15 had an experience that they were floating above their "dead" body, watching medical staff trying to resuscitate them.

One particular patient was correctly able to describe the room he was in when he was deeply unconscious and saw a nurse take his dentures and put them in a particular drawer - the nurse later confirmed these details. In another report, a woman accurately related events that occurred when she was unconscious and a brain wave test (electroencephalogram). showed no brain activity.

It has been suggested that these phenomena are either tricks of the memory or psychological responses to a very traumatic situation. This does not explain however, how patients could register details during a period when they were unconscious. Further research is going on to confirm that this really does occur, but if confirmed, it suggests that patients who appear to be unconscious might still have some "conscious" brain awareness. How this could occur cannot be explained by our current knowledge of how the brain works.

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


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