The Flipped Engineering Classroom
Since the 1990s, there has been a systematic search for the neural correlates and neural causes of conscious experience. The advent of new techniques for brain machine interfaces now enables us to record from hundreds of neurons simultaneously and read out the representation of sensation and movement in near real time. Using these techniques, we will examine long standing hypotheses for how diverse anesthetic agents can disrupt consciousness while doing very different things at the level of receptors or individual neurons. We and others hypothesize that the final common mechanism is breakdown of communication between brain areas, even if neurons within a particular brain area are performing their usual computations. Our approach is to watch the flow of information about finger sensation pass from sensory cortex to motor cortex by “decoding” the firing rates of many individual neurons under commonly used anesthetics at increasing doses until consciousness is lost. This may enable us to find a final common electrical marker that would make intraoperative monitoring of consciousness as ubiquitous and quantitative as blood pressure.
Cynthia Chestek, Assistant Professor of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
Deanna Gates, Assistant Professor of Kinesiology and Biomedical Engineering, College of Engineering
Brent Gillespie, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering
Arthur Kuo, Professor of Biomedical and Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering