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Researchers Find Links Between Sleep, Anesthesia and Coma
Date:12/29/2010

d light on coma, a little understood phenomenon that strikes people with brain injury and can be induced by physicians to help the body heal.

Dr. Nicholas D. Schiff, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, said the framework laid by the report, which he co-authored, may help doctors gain better insight into how people recover from brain injuries because the process is similar to coming out of general anesthesia.

"We know very little about the step-by-step changes that are associated with recovery from coma," Schiff said. "It's clear that you can have recovery over long periods of time, but figuring out who will recover and why is less clear."

Dr. Debra A. Schwinn, chairwoman of the department of anesthesiology & pain medicine at the University of Washington, said the new report is strong and "boldly suggests that anesthetic action in the human brain may be more in parallel with sleep and coma than originally envisioned."

In the future, she said, new ideas about how sleep works -- that it may be centered in compartments of the brain instead of the whole organ -- "will be very interesting to pursue as they may relate to anesthesia action in the years to come."

More information

For more about anesthesia, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Emery N. Brown, M.D., Ph.D., anesthesiologist, Massachusetts General Hospital, and professor, anesthesia, Harvard Medical School, and professor, computational neuroscience and health sciences and technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston; Nicholas D. Schiff, M.D., professor, neurology and neuroscience, and director, Laboratory of Cognitive Neuromodulation, Weill Cornell Medical College, New York City; Debra A. Schwinn, M.D., chair, department of anesthesiology & pain medicine, Universit
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