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Press release | Focus | Health ＆ life sciences | Brain
The brain does not shutdown under general anesthesia but rather continues to have significant activity. The anesthetic agents used act directly on the brain, suppressing consciousness in a controlled and reversible way. Nonetheless, little is known about the actual mechanisms involved in general anesthesia. It is essential to understand more about this action in order to develop modern tools to monitor the brain during anesthesia, and to develop more selective anesthesia drugs.
Béchir Jarraya, who led this research with Lynn Uhrig, explained: " To better understand the discovery, imagine that our brain is our planet earth and that the functional MRI is a satellite monitoring the roads. We found that, in the conscious state, the road network is fluid and flexible: traffic flows smoothly on the major highways and secondary roads and there is a great deal of flexibility in the management of changes in the flow encountered by the network. However, in the case of general anesthesia, the network is confined to motorways. It allows neither good flexibility, nor good flow distribution, generating traffic jams of sorts. That's how our team discovered a universal brain signature of general anesthesiaTo understand the discovery more easily, imagine that the brain is the planet Earth and that functional MRI is a satellite tracking the road networks. We found that, in waking state, traffic on the road network is fluid and flexible: traffic flows smoothly on the major highways and secondary roads and there is a great deal of flexibility in the management of changes in the flow encountered by the network. When under general anesthesia however, the network is restricted to the superhighways. Traffic flow is neither flexible nor evenly distributed, creating jams. This is how our team discovered that there is a universal brain signature for general anesthesia."
Uhrig et al., “Resting-state Dynamics as a Cortical Signature of Anesthesia in Monkeys”, Anesthesiology 2018
CEA is a French government-funded technological research organisation in four main areas: low-carbon energies, defense and security, information technologies and health technologies. A prominent player in the European Research Area, it is involved in setting up collaborative projects with many partners around the world.