We Now Know More About How General Anesthesia Works

The First Operation Under Ether (Robert C. Hinckley, 1882–1893). Wikimedia Commons

Aliyah Kovner 11 Jan 2018, 22:05

“With most animal brains comprising anywhere between millions and trillions of synapses, it seems plausible that normal brain functions would be compromised if syntaxin1A mobility became globally restricted across a variety of synapses following exposure to general anesthetics,” the authors state in their conclusion.

They also found that another common anesthetic agent called etomidate had the same effect on syntaxin1A.

The findings help further differentiate the mechanisms underlying varying states of unconsciousness and may explain why general anesthesia is particularly dangerous to certain groups of patients.

An anesthetized patient lies on an operating table with a blood oxygen monitor. UfaBizPhoto/Shutterstock

“The discovery has implications for people whose brain connectivity is vulnerable, for example in children whose brains are still developing or for people with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease,” said team leader Bruno van Swinderen.

Future research will be necessary to unpack how exactly propofol and etomidate disrupt syntaxin1A, but until then, every bit of insight into this medical puzzle is worth savoring.

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