The area of ​​the brain thought to impart consciousness instead behaves like an internet router

Summary: The claustrum coordinates networks associated with executive commands to work together to accomplish many of the cognitive tasks we perform on a moment-to-moment basis.

source: University of Maryland

The wrinkled cortex, hidden under the outside of the brain, is a very mysterious area, known as the claustrum. This area has long been known to exchange signals with much of the cerebral cortex, which is responsible for higher thinking and complex thinking.

Because of the extensive relationships between the claustrum, the legendary scientist Francis Crick, Ph.D., best known for discovering DNA, first hypothesized in 2005 that the claustrum is the seat of consciousness; In other words, the area of ​​the brain enables us to perceive the world and ourselves.

However, researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine hypothesize that Crick may have been incorrect: They have developed a new theory – based on the data – that the claustrum behaves like a high-speed Internet router, receiving executive commands from “prime regions” of the brain’s cortex that They form complex ideas to generate ‘networks’ in the cerebral cortex.

The claustrum acts like a router, coordinating these networks to work together to accomplish the many different, mind-blowing tasks that we do on a moment-to-moment basis in everyday life.

The new results and hypotheses were published on September 30, 2022, at Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

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

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

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

In an effort to determine the exact role that Claustrum plays, Dr. Mathur and his colleagues conducted a series of serious experiments on both animals and humans. One experiment used modern neuroscience methods to turn off clastrum in conscious mice. The mice did not lose consciousness and continued to run normally. This was one blow against Crick’s theory.

Next, the researchers gave the mice a simple or challenging cognitive task and compared how they responded when the Clostrum was stopped. Usually, a mouse can perform both simple and difficult tasks. However, when the researchers turned off Claustrum, the mice were no longer able to perform the challenging task.

This shows claustrum . activity maps
The claustrum activates the brain when a person performs a complex task. Credit: Brian Mathur, UMSOM

Wondering if this finding is relevant to humans, Dr. Mathur collaborated with colleagues David Semenovich, PhD, professor of neurosciences and pain at UM College of Dentistry, and Fred Barrett, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns University School of Medicine. Hopkins.

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

The researchers noted that their claustrum only “lit up” when performing the challenging version of the task. This event coincided with activation of a network in the cerebral cortex involved in optimal cognitive functioning: multiply two against Crick’s consciousness theory.

The third blow, Dr. Mathur said, will be when additional experiments support their theory of claustrum function. By doing so, Dr. Mathur and colleagues are now seeking to understand how the claustrum learns and adapts to organize networks in the cortex to help support cognition.

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Mark T. said: Gladwin, the university’s vice president for medical affairs, said: “Understanding how the brain flexibly forms and coordinates these networks — through the claustrum — is essential for treating cognitive decline, which occurs in addiction, Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia.” Maryland and Baltimore, John Z and Akiko Powers Distinguished Professor and Dean of UMSOM

Dr. Mathur added: “Our hypothesis provides a much-needed conceptual framework to devise new therapeutic strategies.”

About this Neuroscience Research News

author: press office
source: University of Maryland
Contact: Press Office – University of Maryland
picture: Photo credited to Brian Mathur, UMSOM

original search: open access.
The role of claustrum in cognitive controlBy Maxwell B. Madden et al. Trends in Cognitive Sciences


The role of claustrum in cognitive control

  • Modern neuroscience approaches have expanded investigations into the functional role of clastrum, one of the most interconnected regions of the brain.
  • Emerging data across rodent studies show that claustrum is required for optimal cognitive functioning and synchronization of distal cortical areas.
  • Functional imaging data of the human whole brain show that claustrum is activated during challenging versions of a cognitive task and with the emergence of task-positive cortical networks.
  • We propose a functional role for claustrum in the methylation of the cortical network underlying cognitive control.

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