The Neuroscience of Anesthesia

Anesthesia drugs have been used in the US for 170 years without being well understood. Emery Brown has changed that. The Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering and Computational Neuroscience at MIT, Brown is also director of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program, associate director of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), and an investigator at MIT’s Picower Center for Learning and Memory. Anesthesia drugs create long, large brain waves that are readily visible in the electroencephalogram (EEG). Since 1937, it has been possible to monitor an anesthetized brain using EEG. Brown has shown that these highly structured brain waves are produced by the anesthesia drugs binding at specific molecular targets and specific brain circuits and disrupting communication among different brain regions. The brain wave patterns…

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