Scientists Investigate the Boundaries of Consciousness

Recent studies highlighted in New Scientist present new research on how consciousness works, according to a Forbes report.

Healthcare experts say that despite advancements in anesthetic technique and technology, scientists still don't understand how anesthesia actually causes unconsciousness. According to George Mashour, MD, an anesthetist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, there has been an "explosion of studies" around consciousness and anesthesia in the last five years.

According to Dr. Mashour's team, preliminary evidence based on a study of 18 patients suggests that anesthetic-induced unconsciousness is associated with a selective inhibition of anterior-to-posterior feedback activity. The team studied the directionality of frontoparietal connectivity during consciousness, propofol anesthesia and recovery in human volunteers and found that feedfoward and feedback connectivity decreased after induction with propofol. Feedforward connectivity recorded to baseline during neural anesthesia and feedback was suppressed until the return of consciousness.

In essence, the EEG of the brain revealed that the patient was responding to external stimulation, even when completely unconsciousness from anesthesia. This may mean that anesthesia does not shut down neurons as much as "jack them up, to the point of a kind of overload," in order to induce unconsciousness.

Related Articles on Anesthesia:
5 Proactive Measures for Anesthesiologists to Combat Drug Shortages
California's Kaweah Delta Medical Center to Grant Credentials to 13 New Anesthesiologists
Can the Global Market Fix Record Drug Shortages?

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