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Researchers investigate processes underlying anaesthesia effects

In a recent study, researchers suggested that interrupted information processing within brain areas contributes to loss of consciousness under anaesthesia. (Photograph: al7/Shutterstock)
Dental Tribune International

Dental Tribune International

Wed. 23. August 2017


FRANKFURT AM MAIN, Germany: While the mechanism underlying loss of consciousness in anaesthesia is not known, it has been hypothesised that it is due to interrupted transmission on nerve fibres coupling brain areas, affecting their ability to communicate with each other. Neuroscientists have now discovered that certain areas of the brain generate less information under anaesthesia. The drop in information could be a consequence of reduced local information generation in the brain.

Researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt and the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen in Germany and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the US have now investigated this new hypothesis. The research team, led by Patricia Wollstadt and Dr Flavio Fröhlich, examined sources in ferret brain areas from which less information was transmitted under anaesthesia.

They found that information generation under anaesthesia was far more affected there than in the target brain areas to which the information was transferred. This indicates that it is the information available in the source area that determines information transfer and not a disruption in signal transmission. With the latter being the case, a far greater reduction could be expected in the target areas, since less information arrives there.

“The relevance of this alternative explanation goes beyond anesthesia research,” said Wollstadt, “since each and every examination of neuronal information transfer should categorically take into consideration how much information is available locally and is therefore also transferable.”

The study, titled “Breakdown of local information processing may underlie isoflurane anesthesia effects”, was published online on 1 June in the PLOS Computational Biology journal.

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