07/07/2014 07:25 BST | Updated 07/07/2014 07:59 BST

Scientists Find 'Switch' Which Makes You Sleep

Scientists have found the part of the brain which controls your consciousness, effectively discovering a 'on/off' switch which makes you fall asleep.

Incredibly researchers at the George Washington University found it by accident as part of an ongoing study of an epileptic patient.

Reported by The New Scientist, the researchers were using a technique called Deep Brain Stimulation to try and discover the part of her brain that was causing her seizures.


The researchers routinely placed one of the electrodes on the Claustrum, a tiny sheet of neurons and then when they sent an electrical signal to it discovered something rather remarkable: the patient lost consciousness.

According to the researchers the patient's speaking slowed, her reactions came to a stand still and by all accounts was completely unconscious.

Professor Mohamad Koubeissi was leading the team that made the discovery and likens the effect to a car saying:

"I would liken it to a car, a car on the road has many parts that facilitate its movement – the gas, the transmission, the engine – but there's only one spot where you turn the key and it all switches on and works together. So while consciousness is a complicated process created via many structures and networks – we may have found the key."

It's very early days for the technique as it has so far, only been tested on one patient, however the research has huge positive implications for those suffering from epilepsy or who suffer from semi-conscious conditions.