It was a hectic gig, with a lot of "technical challenges" (so to speak). Due to lack of time I hadn't eaten all day.
Once the performance had concluded, the audience had all gone home, and the grueling load-out was finished, I headed for my band's recently deserted dressing room.
Much to my surprise, there was still a mostly untouched deli tray sitting there. After scarfing down some leftovers, I made a couple of additional sandwiches for the road and then headed back to the ranch.
About 2 hours after my weary head hit the pillow, I was rudely awakened by a stomach-ache. Three heaping tablespoons of Pepto-Bismol later I returned to bed.
Fast forward to three days later: not only had the stomach-ache NOT gone away (?), but I was in some of the most intense pain I had ever experienced. All I could think of was that this was the "mother" of all cases of food poisoning, but since I am one of the millions of Americans with no health insurance, I thought I could "tough it out".
After consulting with a friend who just happened to be a paramedic, I soon found myself in the emergency room of the nearest hospital.
Sometime the next day (?) I awoke in a hospital bed with tubes in my left arm, and a surgeon standing over me. He looked me over, and then informed me of the grim fact that if I had arrived at the hospital 30 minutes later, I would be in the morgue, instead of the recovery room.
Apparently my appendix has burst 36 hours prior to my ER admittance, hence the stomach-ache. By the time they cut me open, which was my first surgery ever, gangrene had already set in and was working it's way up my intestinal tract.
I relate this cautionary tale as prelude to what follows.
Although there were indeed some profoundly personal introspective hours as I lay in recovery, despite over a decade of religious indoctrination via my Catholic schooling, thoughts of God and/or "guardian angels" never really entered my head.
What does this have to do with "the price of tea in China"?
I'm not sure, but as the ongoing battle between religion and science seems to rage on during this ridiculous presidential pre-election period, the article below brought this experience to mind, and I thought I'd share, for whatever that's worth.
The emergence of consciousness after general anesthesia has been imaged and found to be associated with activations of deep, primitive brain structures, rather than the evolutionary younger neocortex, scientists from UC Irvine and the University of Turku have found.
“We expected to see the outer bits of brain, the cerebral cortex (often thought to be the seat of higher human consciousness), would turn back on when consciousness was restored following anesthesia,” said Harry Scheinin, M.D. from the Turku PET Centre at the University of Turku in Finland.
“Surprisingly, that is not what the images showed us. In fact, the central core structures of the more primitive brain structures including the thalamus and parts of the limbic system appeared to become functional first, suggesting that a foundational primitive conscious state must be restored before higher order conscious activity can occur.”
The study may help in understanding the traumatic phenomenon of ”intraoperative awareness” (remembering surgery).
In the study, volunteers were put under anesthesia in a positron emission tomography (PET) brain scanner using either dexme-detomidine or propofol anesthetic drugs. The subjects were then woken up while brain-activity images were being recorded. Dexmedetomidine is used as a sedative in the intensive care unit setting and propofol is widely used for induction and maintenance of general anesthesia.
Dexmedetomidine-induced unconsciousness has a close resemblance to normal physiological sleep, since it can be reversed with mild physical stimulation or loud voices without requiring any change in the dosing of the drug. This unique property was critical to the study design because it enabled the investigators to separate the brain activity changes associated with the changing level of consciousness from the drug-related effects on the brain.
The emergence of consciousness, as assessed with a motor response to a spoken command, was associated with the activation of a core network involving subcortical and limbic regions that became functionally coupled with parts of frontal and inferior parietal cortices upon awakening from dexme-detomidine-induced unconsciousness. This network thus enabled the subjective awareness of the external world and the capacity to behaviorally express the contents of consciousness through voluntary responses.
Interestingly, the same deep brain structures —. the brain stem, thalamus, hypothalamus and the anterior cingulate cortex — were activated also upon emergence from propofol anesthesia, suggesting a common, drug-independent mechanism of arousal. For both drugs, activations seen upon regaining consciousness were thus mostly localized in deep, phylogenetically old brain structures rather than in the neocortex.
Current depth-of-anesthesia monitoring technology is based on cortical electroencephalography (EEG) measurement (measuring electrical signals on the surface of the scalp that arise from the brain’s cortical surface), which may explain why these devices fail in differentiating the conscious and unconscious states and why patient awareness during general anesthesia may not always be detected, the researchers speculate. The results presented here also add to the current understanding of anesthesia mechanisms and form the foundation for developing more reliable depth-of-anesthesia technology.
Ref.: Jaakko W. Långsjö, et al., Returning from Oblivion: Imaging the Neural Core of Consciousness, The Journal of Neuroscience, 2012; 32(14):4935-4943; [DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4962-11.2012] (open access)
Great topic, thanks for bringing this up.
Anesthesia is a fascinating state of existence. Thankfully I've never been conscious during the few times I was under. For me it was like death, non-existence, no time felt. I was somewhere, then a blink of the eyes, and I was somewhere else. Both teleportation and time travel.
As for the brain's activity at re-awakening, it makes sense. The operating system must reboot before the desktop gizmos. I've had this feeling a couple of times: becoming aware that I was already awaken. It must be terrible when it happens during the surgery.
Yeah Michel, it's always been a great source of fascination to me how the unconscious mind works.
As far as anesthesia goes, over the course of my years in rock & roll, in many instances this was a "self-induced state" so to speak, but as usual, one must turn to the professionals for the "REALLY GOOD stuff".
A couple of years ago I had a few short episodes of just passing out, like that.
I'm sitting somewhere, and in the next instant, I'm lying on the floor (once with a bleeding nose =)
And it's not like waking from sleep and coming to awareness. Subjectively there's no waking up, it's just a glitch in the timeline with an inexplicable change of situation.
Where or what was I during my fall?
I think I was dead =)
Hope life is better. Detest hearing about lack of insurance, as has been said many a time, health care is a human necessity.
A great article. It falls in line with Damasio's idea of consciousness as arising from the brain's awareness of the body, as described in his book "Self Comes to Mind." It makes sense that the more "primitive" parts of the brain are awoken first.
It also works with Allan Hobson's study of the primitive brain as the engine for dreams.
I have been under anesthesia a few times and yes! I was not aware of time but I was aware of being but not a space time awareness of being. I have also had the the same experience whilst drunk as I had under anesthesia. I had no awareness of my physical being but had a full awareness of Being.