Researchers from the University of Wisconsin discovered they could awaken monkeys anesthetized into a deep sleep by electrically stimulating a precise brain region. When they ended the electric stimulation, the monkeys went right back to sleep. They targeted an area only a few millimeters in size in the monkey’s thalamus, the region involved in consciousness deep in the forebrain just above the brain stem, according the study published in Neuron on Feb. 12.
The researchers hope their discovery will lead to helping people with disorders of consciousness live better lives.
“It’s possible we may be able to use these kinds of deep-brain stimulating electrodes to bring people out of comas,” lead researcher Michelle Redinbaugh said. “Our findings may also be useful for developing new ways to monitor patients under clinical anesthesia, to make sure they are safely unconscious.” —J.B.