Scientists believe they may have stumbled upon new evidence that suggests consciousness in the brain can be switched on and off.
The discovery would bring forth new developments in neuroscience and may usher in other developments as well, particularly in medicine and mental health.
It was reported that if the information scientists have is accurate, then there might be the possibility that surgery could become less painful and the understanding of consciousness may be more complete soon.
The journal Epilepsy and Behavior published the findings of the accidental discovery. The evidence was found when scientists were studying an epilepsy patient. They used electrodes deep within a patient's brain to try to determine where her seizures were coming from.
The team was led by Mohamad Koubeissi at the George Washington University, reports indicate. Strange events transpired during the research. The scientists stimulated an area of the brain called the claustrum, an area of the brain that had never been stimulated. Once stimulated, the woman, who was reading, stopped responding to all visual and audible cues, as if she were a robot that had been shut down.
The team was able to recreate the scenario several times to confirm their findings. The patient had no recollection of the time that she was "off."
As one report noted however, the woman did not have an average brain because her hippocampus had been previously removed to treat her epilepsy.
Medical research could be altered by this discovery, which is still not fully understood. For example, scientists still need to know whether stimulating the area with lower frequencies could turn consciousness back on again.
The experiments reportedly lasted two days. Researchers will continue to look into the matter until they more fully understand this phenomenon.