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Anesthesia doesn’t simply turn off the brain, it changes its rhythms

April 27, 2021


In a uniquely deep and detailed look at how the commonly used anesthetic propofol causes unconsciousness, a collaboration of labs at The Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT shows that as the drug takes hold in the brain, a wide swath of regions become coordinated by very slow rhythms that maintain a commensurately languid pace of neural activity. Electrically stimulating a deeper region, the thalamus, restores synchrony of the brain’s normal higher frequency rhythms and activity levels, waking the brain back up and restoring arousal.

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