Mohamad Koubeissi, Associate Professor of Neurology and Director of Epilepsy Center at George Washington University at his office. (Photo courtesy of Mohamad Koubeissi)
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When Mohammad Koubeissi readied his epileptic patient for a routine exam, he did not know he was about to discover the on-off switch for consciousness.As the director of George Washington University's Epilepsy Center zapped a region called the "claustrum" deep in the patient's brain with a mild electric current, a blank stare took hold of her eyes. What Koubeissi had apparently discovered was a key – a switch that turned his patient's consciousness on or off.Koubeissi's patient had been suffering from epilepsy.When the electrode near the region known as the claustrum was stimulated and the patient froze, Koubeissi initially thought the electric charge had caused "aphasia" – turning off the language processing portion of the brain.Scientists had for years hypothesized that the claustrum, a region deep inside the brain, was inextricably linked to consciousness.After graduating from medical school, Koubeissi spent a year conducting epilepsy research at AUB, before moving to New York University for clinical training.
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