Brains Are More Active When People Are Unconscious


Many consider that the brain becomes active when people are conscious or awake and the brain become inactive when people are unconscious. But that assumption is proved wrong, because the brain is actually more active when people are unconscious.

Many people thinks that the awake and aware is the same thing. But actually these are two different concepts.

Brain stem regulates weather a person is still awake or not, while the context regions regulates the level of awareness. People could be aware while they are asleep, the condition is called dreaming.

Conversely, people can also be awake but not aware. The condition is called vegetative level, which when not aware, some areas of the brain became more active than the person awake and aware.

According to Livestrong, here are some condition of someone’s level of awareness:

1. Sleep and not aware
The brain is actually very active when a person is asleep, even when they are not dreaming. And when people are awake, the brain stem release neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin to keep the brain remains active.

However, according to health researcher Teofilo Lee-Chiong from the University of Colorado, the brain stem contains neurons that express different types of chemicals that made inactive when the neurons ‘wake up’ during sleep. This neuron turn out to be active when people are asleep and become inactive when people are awake.

2. Coma and anesthesia
People who are in a coma and anesthesia can not be woken and the person is not conscious. People with this condition have a very slow brain waves, but the ‘electrical activity’ is one marker of brain activity.

Blood flow and metabolism, which is measured using fMRI and PET scans, each of which is a type of brain activity that does not stop at all during the coma or anesthesia. In fact, some coma patients have a higher metabolic rate than the cerebrum, which is the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine.

3. Seizures
Seizures begins when some neurons activity increased to a point beyond the capacity of the brain. Hyper-excitability (excessive stimulation) could spread throughout the brain, causing seizures. People who experience seizures became unconscious, but neurons become uncontrollably active.

4. Vegetative level (long coma)
People in vegetative state (coma) can be fully awake but the person is not able to be aware. People like this sometimes shows the activity of the brain stem and limbic system is active in the brain. These people can cry, laugh, sleep, wake up and move their eyes around, but they have no connection with the real world.

People with vegetative level can have more activity in the limbic system compared to healthy people. One reason is because the cortex can come down and modulate activity in the limbic system. With the absence of activity of the cortex, the limbic system may be active in a uncontrolled and unregulated pattern.