Researchers Release First Real-Time Video of Brain Losing Consciousness Under Anesthesia

A new technique allows researchers to view real-time, 3-D images of a patient's brain as the patient undergoes anesthesia from propofol, according to a report by TIME.

The findings from the new technique have shown that consciousness fades "as though a dimmer is being dialed down" rather than switches off, according to the report. The research also shows that consciousness inhabits the connections between multiple areas of the brain. The images show that changes in the anesthetized brain begin in the midbrain, where there are many receptors for a neurotransmitter called GABA.

Propofol and other anesthetics act on these receptors to enhance the effects of GABA, which inhibits cellular activity. Changes move from the midbrain to other parts of the brain, and consciousness slips away as the drug moves to different areas.

The new technique measure brain activity by using imperceptible electrical currents produced by electrodes placed on the patient's head. Unlike fMRI, fEITER — or functional electrical impedance tomography by evoked response — does not require the patient to be inside a magnetic field.

Read the TIME report and watch the video of the brain becoming unconscious.

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