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Consciousness in the Raw

The brain stem may orchestrate the basics of awareness

In October 2004, Swedish neuroscientist Bjorn Merker packed up his video camera and joined five families for a 1-week get-together in Florida that featured several visits to the garden of childhood delights known as Disney World. For Merker, though, the trip wasn't a vacation. With the parents' permission, he came to observe and document the behavior of one child in each family who had been born missing roughly 80 percent of his or her brain.

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