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Is there a third state of consciousness ?

23 July 2013
The results of a recent study have revealed that a strange new state of human consciousness may exist.

Dubbed 'dysanaesthesia', this potential third state of consciousness would lie somewhere between being awake and sleeping, an intermediary state in which the individual is able to respond to a command but is unable to feel pain.

The findings stem from the results of a recent study involving 34 patients who were anesthetized with their entire body paralyzed except for one arm. Remarkably, it was found that up a third of patients were observed moving their finger when commanded to do so despite being seemingly unconscious.

"What's more remarkable is that they only move their fingers if they are asked," said Dr. Jaideep Pandit who discussed the research at the Annual Congress of the Association of Anaesthetists. "None of the patients spontaneously responded to the surgery. They are presumably not in pain."

The find is particularly significant because it raises questions about patient awareness during surgical procedures. Surveys have shown that around 1 in 500 patients recall some degree of awareness during surgery and it is thought that an intermediary level of consciousness could potentially help to explain this.

"We don't have a model for consciousness," said Pandit. "It is very difficult to design a monitor, to monitor something you don't have a model for."

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