A tiny cluster of nerve cells in the upper brain stem has been identified by Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers for the first time as being an essential part of the "circuit" that controls states of unconsciousness.
The groundbreaking work, based on years of working on rats and likely to be applicable to humans, could lead to future treatments for loss of consciousness, sleep disorders and pain. It was recently published as a 12-page article in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Prof. Marshall Devor, the Cecile and Seymour Alpert professor of pain research - who worked with graduate student Ruth Abulafia and research associate Dr. Vladimir Zalkind - told The Jerusalem Post on Monday that this small group of cells appeared to have "executive control" over many brain functions [...]
He speculated that this specific part of the brain - called MPTA,
or the mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area - could have been what was turned off by G-forces, lack of oxygen or blood glucose, or other factors when fighter pilot Capt. Assaf Ramon suddenly lost consciousness in his plane as it made a sharp turn, and crashed on Sunday.