oa Southern African Journal of Anaesthesia and Analgesia - Consciousness beyond Anaesthesia : guest editorial



Consciousness is an important marker in the progress of general anaesthesia, the Mind's final integrator of various awareness states subject to drug depression. Awareness contributes to, but is not the equivalent of, consciousness; in fact, by preserving certain forms of awareness as others are depressed, unconsciousness is stabilized. While the hallmark of good anaesthesia practice includes absence of physical or psychological injury with no mental recall, not all drugs that induce a loss of consciousness are able to block memory-recording. Disregard of this dichotomy may lead to tragedy. In attempting to unravel the relationship between what distinguishes awareness from consciousness and the Mind, neurobiologists have followed brain response circuits evoked by various physical and mental stimuli. These suggest that thought, personality, emotions and even the Mind must be chemically mediated processes. Nevertheless, over millennia, mankind has experienced events that question a purely electrochemical explanation. Now modern data appears to show that consciousness, unsupported by brain function, is possible: not for the first time has yesterday's supernatural become a new cutting edge for science. New ideas in theories of particle physics concerning the ultimate structure of matter propose extra, unexplored dimensions of existence to provide surprising answers.


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