Neural mechanisms of anesthesia
Antkowiak B, Kirschfeld K.
Max-Planck-Institut fur biologische Kybernetik, Tubingen.
Anasthesiol Intensivmed Notfallmed Schmerzther. 2000 Dec;35(12):731-43


Positron emission tomography studies on volunteers showed that, at concentrations inducing the loss of consciousness, propofol, halothane and isoflurane reduce glucose metabolism of neocortical neurones by 20-50%. To find out whether these effects are caused by direct anaesthetic actions on cortical structures, experiments were carried out on isolated neocortical brain slices. In these investigations an excellent correlation was observed between anaesthetic concentrations causing a half-maximal depression of action potential firing in neocortical brain slices and anaesthetic blood concentrations monitored during awaking from anaesthesia in humans. Furthermore, it could be shown that, at concentrations approximately one half the MAC-value, isoflurane decreases the frequency of auditory evoked 30-40 Hz oscillations in the neocortex by 50%. Similar quantitative effects were observed on spontaneously occurring high frequency rhythms in neocortical brain slices. However, not all aspects of cerebral anaesthetic actions can be explained by direct effects on cortical neurones. The EEG synchronisation and the amplitude reduction of mid latency auditory evoked potentials are probably related to the inhibition of thalamic neurones. Halothane, isoflurane, enflurane and propofol reduced action potential firing of cortical neurones by enhancing GABAA receptor-mediated synaptic inhibition. This molecular mechanism seems also to be involved in depressing painful stimuli-induced motor responses. Nevertheless, there must be a difference between relevant anaesthetic mechanisms on the cerebral and spinal level. This follows from the observation that the relation between the concentration causing the loss of consciousness and the concentration that depresses movements considerably varies among different anaesthetic agents.
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