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Coma and general anesthesia demonstrate important similarities
Date:12/29/2010

eak the circuits as needed, to help us in the areas where we don't do well, such as abnormalities of sleep and, especially, emergence from a coma," Dr. Schiff says. "And while use of general anesthesia is an incredibly safe technique, it can have effects on the elderly, such as slower recovery time and impaired cognitive function afterwards."

In their review, which took three years to develop, the researchers synthesized the newest studies in these three areas, including work of their own. Among their other specialties, Dr. Brown's expertise is general anesthesia, Dr. Lydic's is sleep, and Dr. Schiff's is recovery from coma.

"We think this is, conceptually, a very fresh look at phenomena we and others have noticed and studied in sleep, coma and use of general anesthesia," Dr. Schiff says. "By reframing these phenomena in the context of common circuit mechanisms, we can make each of these states understandable and predictable."

"These findings show that general anesthesia is a reversible coma, and learning about the different ways we can safely place the brain into this state, with fewer side effects and risks, could be an important advance in general anesthesiology," explains Dr. Brown. "Also, in a scientific sense, monitoring brain function under general anesthesia gives us new insights into how the brain works in order to develop new sleep aids and new ways for patients to recover from coma."

Describing the Switching Circuit

One critically important circuit the authors describe involves specific brain areas. One major player is the cortex, which is made up of layers of neural tissue at the outer edge of the brain, and another is the thalamus, a ball of neural tissue at the center of the brain. These areas are connected to each other through nerve cell axons, which act like information highways, passing signals. The cortex and the thalamus "talk" to each other in different ways over a 24-hour cycle.

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Contact: Andrew Klein
ank2017@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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