Editorial Views  |   November 2018
Highways of the Brain, Traffic of the Mind
Author Notes
  • From the Center for Consciousness Science, Department of Anesthesiology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
  • Corresponding article on page 942.
    Corresponding article on page 942.×
  • Accepted for publication July 9, 2018.
    Accepted for publication July 9, 2018.×
  • Address correspondence to Dr. Mashour: gmashour@umich.edu
Article Information
Editorial Views / Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems
Editorial Views   |   November 2018
Highways of the Brain, Traffic of the Mind
Anesthesiology 11 2018, Vol.129, 869-871. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000002385
Anesthesiology 11 2018, Vol.129, 869-871. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000002385
HOW consciousness emerges from the coordinated activity of neural firing across the brain remains among the most important questions of twenty-first-century science. A related foundational question in the field of anesthesiology is how the anesthetic drugs we use on a daily basis reversibly suppress consciousness. There are many current approaches to this question, but whatever one’s scientific perspective it is likely uncontroversial to suggest that we will need to understand the state of information in the brain during consciousness and anesthesia in order to achieve a satisfactory explanation. When considering such information processing, it might be helpful to consider the analogy of traffic. Streets and highways represent the structural basis that enables transport to and from various locations. Cars are the vehicles that carry the people and, collectively, traffic patterns emerge. We can imagine that, at certain times of the day, traffic can be dynamic, efficient, and complex. At other times, or under other conditions, there might be gridlock or the streets could be empty. On and off ramps along major highways help create the kinds of dynamic patterns that are observed in daily life.