What Is the Claustrum in the Brain? A Neuroscientist Explains
Forgotten, but not lost.
You’ve probably never heard of the claustrum, a small region of the brain, because scientists still know little about it. But, in spite of the fact that it’s not the most name-known part of the human mind, it’s still an important part of what makes you tick.
The claustrum is a tiny sheet of neurons that lie around the neocortex, like a crown, with connections to all other parts of the brain. While we aren’t 100 percent sure of all the claustrum’s functions — the brain is loaded with all kinds of mysteries — researchers have figured out that it does have a direct correlation to consciousness.
As an experiment, scientists excited the claustrum of each patient, and when they did, the patients lost consciousness — they were out like a light. When they removed that excitation, though, the patients immediately woke up. But, the craziest part of the experiment is that they weren’t aware they ever lost consciousness in the first place.
In addition to this finding, they were able to observe that the claustrum of rodents who were on anesthesia lost the ability to communicate with other parts of the brain, suggesting that the claustrum and consciousness are closely related.
So, even though we don’t know everything about it, the claustrum, and any other undiscovered regions, will keep doing their jobs while we are none the wiser. That’s the beauty of the brain.
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