Anesthesiologists Discover a Third State of Consciousness

Neuroscience studies human behavior from cold and impersonal data, relatively easy to analyze quantitatively. However, there is one aspect of psychology that cannot be measured directly: subjective states of consciousness. Perhaps this is why scientists struggle to build a definition of what consciousness is, what it is, and what exactly it is based on.

For this reason, the discoveries which are made on the functioning of the brain cause the distinction between two states of subjectivity (“conscious” and “unconscious”) to waver. There are currently indications that there could be a third state of consciousness which has been named dysanesthesia (dysanesthesia).

Partial consciousness in the operating room

The discovery of this possible third state of consciousness is linked to the usual practice of anesthesiologists: sleeping people.

The experiment involved asking apparently unconscious people the effect of general anesthesia to move the fingers of a hand that had been isolated from the rest of the body by a tourniquet during their operation. Interesting way, nearly two-quarters of people with anesthesia obeyed the order as requested, Although according to electronic surveillance systems, they must have been completely asleep. On the other hand, the doses of anesthesia provided were the normal ones, which would have been administered to them in any normal operation.

None of the people who participated in the experiment moved their hands for anything other than following orders given to them or appearing to respond in any way to the surgery they were undergoing. Also, once you wake up, only two of them vaguely remembered moving their hand, And no one remembered anything about the surgery or claimed to have felt pain.

The third state of consciousness seems to be based on something similar to the selective attention.

Dysanesthesia, or how to expand the repertoire of mental states

The fact that some patients are able to move part of their body in response to commands could be seen as a manifestation of consciousness in the operating room, which can be addressed by increasing the dose of anesthesia. However, some anesthesiologists like Dr. Jaideep Pandit believe that these patients are in a third state of consciousness which is not comparable to what you feel when reading these lines or what happens when you sleep without dreaming.

This could be the case because during this “de-anesthesia”, there is an automatic process that is responsible for discerning what sleep-directed orders are from what are not, And therefore only allows to react in some cases and not in others (although these others have to do with metal instruments cutting skin and flesh).

A third state of consciousness is also a delicate idea

This third state of consciousness would therefore only be partial. However, this experiment also highlights the technology currently used to monitor patient awareness in the operating room. Apparently, the markers that have been monitored so far have limited predictive power, which means that during the operation under general anesthesia, a lot of things could happen in the patient’s consciousness that is not registered by the machines and who remain deprived of his own. subjectivity, although then no memory is retained.

After all, this experience is still a reminder that it’s hard to talk about consciousness when you don’t quite know what it is. Can we define something that is entirely subjective? What if there are types of consciousness that cannot be distinguished by machines? Dysanesthesia can be a third state of consciousness, but it can also be at the top of a long list of mental states that have yet to be discovered.

Bibliographical references:

  • Pandit, JJ (2013). Isolated forearm or isolated brain? Interpret responses during anesthesia – or “dysanesthesia”. Anesthesia, 68 (10), pages 995-1000.
  • Russell IF (2013). Ability of the bispectral index to detect intraoperative arousal during isoflurane / air anesthesia, compared to the isolated forearm technique Anesthesia, 68 (10): 1010-1020.

Leave a Comment