One of anesthesia’s greatest mysteries is how patients wake up with their memories intact, despite being unresponsive for hours. A recent study has attempted to uncover how the brain returns to its normal state after anesthesia.
The study, conducted by Dr. Andrew Hudson, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and his colleagues, provides important clues to revealing how the brain navigates from unconsciousness back to consciousness. The research team administered isoflurane through oral inhalation to a rodent model. They then recorded the model’s brain electrical activity by placing electrodes in several brain areas associated with arousal and consciousness. Soon after, they imitated the procedures in an operating room by gradually decreasing the power of the anesthesia, monitored the differences in brain electrical activity from the previous recording, and compared the study subjects.
The experiment concluded that the brain activity occurred in discrete clusters and that the brain did not jump structurally between all of the clusters. Hudson simplifies his findings by concluding that this recovery “is not simply the result of the anesthetic ‘wearing off’ but also of the brain finding its way back through a maze of possible activity states to those that allow conscious experience. Put simply, the brain reboots itself.”
What is the significance of this study and how can it help the medical world? First, it provides new information for anesthesiologists that could help them better administer and monitor anesthesia. The findings in this experiment may encourage anesthesiologists and scientists to reexamine accepted approaches to anesthetic procedures. The results may also open a gateway to other medical breakthroughs, such as an improved understanding of comas and other minimally conscious states; scientists can use variations in brain electrical activity to better predict recovery from brain injuries.
We are highlighting this study for you because we at Somnia emphasize clinical quality excellence and outstanding patient care. By gaining a better understanding of anesthesia and its effects on the brain, we believe that anesthesia practices can become safer and more efficient. Download our latest slidedoc, titled “Modernizing Anesthesia in a Changing Healthcare Marketplace,” take a look at our anesthesia practice management tips, or explore our website to learn more about improving anesthesia practices.