Instead, the Brain Region That Thinks Consciousness Acts Like an Internet Router

Summary: The claustrum links networks connected to executive orders to work together to perform the many cognitively demanding tasks we perform at any given moment.

Source: University of Maryland

Hidden beneath the brain’s outer, wrinkled cortex is a deeply mysterious area known as the claustrum. This region has long exchanged signals with much of the cortex, which is responsible for higher thinking and complex thinking.

Because of the extensive connections of the claustrum, the legendary scientist Francis Crick, famous for the discovery of DNA, first proposed in 2005 that the claustrum is the seat of consciousness; in other words, the region of the brain that provides understanding of the world and ourselves.

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine now argue that Crick may be wrong: They’ve developed a new theory based on data that suggests that the claustrum behaves more like a high-speed Internet router. “boss” areas of the cerebral cortex that form complex thoughts to form “networks” in the cortex.

Acting as a router, the claustrum coordinates these networks to work together to perform the many different cognitively demanding tasks we perform at every moment in everyday life.

New findings and hypotheses published on September 30, 2022 Trends in Cognitive Science.

Understanding how the brain forms and coordinates these networks in the cortex through the claustrum is important because disorganized networks are a typical feature of many diseases, such as addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia. This insight may lead to better treatments to address cognitive dysfunction in these disorders.

“The brain is the most complex system in the known universe. It is these data-driven theoretical advances that advance our knowledge toward harnessing this complexity to improve human life,” Associate Professor of Pharmacology at UMSOM, Ph.D. Brian Mathur said.

“As the brain’s highest connected structure, the claustrum is a window into the mystery of the brain, the mind.”

To determine the precise role of the claustrum, Dr. Mathur and his colleagues conducted rigorous experiments on both animals and humans. One experiment used modern neuroscience approaches to disable the claustrum in conscious mice. The mice did not lose consciousness and continued to run normally. This was a blow against Crick’s theory.

The researchers then gave the mice a cognitively simple or difficult task and compared how they responded when the claustrum was turned off. Normally, a mouse can perform both simple and complex tasks. When the researchers turned off the claustrum, the mice were unable to complete the more difficult task.

When a person performs a complex task, the cluster of the brain is activated. Credit: Brian Mathur, UMSOM

Dr. who is interested in whether this finding is related to people. Mathur collaborated with colleagues David Seminowicz, Ph.D., Professor of Neurology and Pain Sciences at the UM School of Dentistry, and Fred Barrett, Ph.D., Associate Professor. in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The three conducted a research study in which they performed functional MRI brain scans on healthy volunteers engaged in simple or complex mental tasks.

The researchers observed that their claustrum only “lit up” when they performed the difficult version of the task. This event coincided with the activation of a network in the cortex involved in optimal cognitive performance: two strikes against Crick’s theory of consciousness.

Dr. Mathur said the strike would be third when further experiments support their theory of claustrum function. By doing this, Dr. Mathur and his colleagues are trying to understand how the claustrum learns and adapts to networks in the cortex to help support cognition.

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It shows human and non-human primate neurons

“Understanding how the brain flexibly forms and connects these networks—via the claustrum—is critical to treating cognitive decline in addiction, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia,” said Mark T. Gladwin, the University’s Vice President for Medical Affairs. Maryland, Baltimore and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean of UMSOM.

Dr. Mathur added, “Our hypothesis provides us with a much-needed conceptual framework for developing new therapeutic strategies.”

This is about neurological research news

Author: Press Service
Source: University of Maryland
Contact: Press Office – University of Maryland
Image: Photo by Brian Mathur of UMSOM

Original Research: Open access.
Maxwell B. Madden et al. Trends in Cognitive Science


The role of the claustrum in cognitive control

  • Modern neuroscience approaches have expanded the investigation of the functional role of the claustrum, one of the most highly connected regions of the brain.
  • Emerging data from rodent studies suggest that the claustrum is required for optimal cognitive performance and synchronizes distant cortical areas.
  • Human whole-brain functional imaging data demonstrate activation of the claustrum during difficult versions of a cognitive task and with the formation of task-positive cortical networks.
  • We propose a functional role of the claustrum in establishing the cortical network underlying cognitive control.

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