Your Very Active, Unconscious Brain

Whether you are asleep or wide awake, your brain is always active.

Even when your body rests deeply in a coma — supposedly beyond the reach of feeling and thought — your brain is hard at work commanding the systems that are pumping blood through your body, moving air into an out of your lungs, and making sure your digestive system is processing food. Most likely, we now know, your brain is doing even more than that.

Research shows that the supposedly unconscious brain can indeed register sensations, store memories, and is where 99.9% of our mind activity resides. Even at root level (unconsciousness), our brain stores our thoughts along with perceptions and emotions, impacting what we say, think and do.

In studies at the University of California San Francisco, some sedated patients could, upon awakening, repeat word-for-word what doctors said while they were under sedation, indicating the brain may even be aware of its surroundings while anesthetized.

We know our brains work differently when under anesthesia and other drug-induced altered states. We also know those states are very different from the dreaming brain. And very different from an awake brain.

It is difficult to define consciousness. That’s why scientists studying the brain are turning their attention to brain connectivity rather than studying individual regions of the brain for clues to consciousness. When researchers track the way sensory signals (brain neural impulses) travel from one part of a conscious brain to another, these signals jump to many different parts of the brain. However, when the brain is unconscious, the signals don’t hop around. Instead, they tend to stay put and gradually fade.

This may mean that consciousness is more a matter of internal brain communication rather than information processing. And some brains, researchers are finding, are better about communicating information internally than others.

We are fascinated by just about everything related to brains here at INDY Neurofeedback. If you want to see how the connectivity in your brain is working and want to keep your brain in peak condition, give us a call.