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Study examines how brain 'reboots' itself to consciousness after anesthesia
Date:6/18/2014

One of the great mysteries of anesthesia is how patients can be temporarily rendered completely unresponsive during surgery and then wake up again, with their memories and skills intact.

A new study by Dr. Andrew Hudson, an assistant professor in anesthesiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and colleagues provides important clues about the processes used by structurally normal brains to navigate from unconsciousness back to consciousness. Their findings are currently available in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous research has shown that the anesthetized brain is not "silent" under surgical levels of anesthesia but experiences certain patterns of activity, and it spontaneously changes its activity patterns over time, Hudson said.

For the current study, the research team recorded the electrical activity from several brain areas associated with arousal and consciousness in a rodent model that had been given the inhaled anesthetic isoflurane. They then slowly decreased the amount of anesthesia, as is done with patients in the operating room, monitoring how the electrical activity in the brain changed and looking for common activity patterns across all the study subjects.

The researchers found that the brain activity occurred in discrete clumps, or clusters, and that the brain did not jump between all of the clusters uniformly.

A small number of activity patterns consistently occurred in the anesthetized rodents, Hudson noted. The patterns depended on how much anesthesia the subject was receiving, and the brain would jump spontaneously from one activity pattern to another. A few activity patterns served as "hubs" on the way back to consciousness, connecting activity patterns consistent with deeper anesthesia to those observed under lighter anesthesia.

"Recovery from anesthesia is not simply the result of the anesthetic 'wearing
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Contact: Kim Irwin
kirwin@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2262
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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