We've updated our Privacy Policy to make it clearer how we use your personal data.

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. You can read our Cookie Policy here.

Advertisement

The Brain Regions That Enable Anesthesia's Deep "Sleep"

An example of burst-suppression in a human subject is shown on the top left, as it appears on electroencephalogram (EEG) and on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The rest of the figure shows maps of burst-suppression overlaid on the brain surfaces of four species: humans, long-tailed macaques, common marmosets, and rats. Brain areas that participate in burst-suppression are colored with red-yellow. Brain areas responsible for vision (visual cortex) are indicated in purple on the same brain surfaces. In humans and monkeys, most of the visual cortex does not participating in burst-suppression; in rats, it does. Credit: Nikoloz Sirmpilatze

Want a FREE PDF version of This News Story?

Complete the form below and we will email you a PDF version of "The Brain Regions That Enable Anesthesia's Deep "Sleep""

Technology Networks Ltd. needs the contact information you provide to us to contact you about our products and services. You may unsubscribe from these communications at any time. For information on how to unsubscribe, as well as our privacy practices and commitment to protecting your privacy, check out our Privacy Policy

Read time:
 

“Our brain can be thought of as a full soccer stadium when we are awake,” explains Nikoloz Sirmpilatze, a scientist in the Functional Imaging Unit and lead author of the study. “Our active neurons are like tens of thousands of spectators all talking at once. Under anesthesia, however, neuronal activity is synchronized. You can measure this activity using EEG as uniform waves, as if all the spectators in the stadium were singing the same song. In deep anesthesia, this song is repeatedly interrupted by periods of silence. This is called burst-suppression. The deeper the anesthesia, the shorter the phases of uniform activity, the bursts, and the longer the periodically recurring inactive phases, the so-called suppressions.”


The phenomenon is caused by many different anesthetics, some of which vary in their mechanisms of action. And burst-suppression is also detectable in coma patients. However, it is not known whether this condition is a protective reaction of the brain or a sign of impaired functioning. It has also been unclear where in the brain burst-suppression occurs and which brain areas are involved, as localization by EEG alone is not possible.


To answer this question, Nikoloz Sirmpilatze and the researcher team used the imaging technique of fMRI. The method makes blood flow changes in the brain visible. The increased activity of neurons in a particular area of the brain leads to an increase in metabolism, followed by an increased blood and oxygen supply at this location, which is ultimately visible in the fMRI image.


In the first part of the study, the researchers established a system to evaluate fMRI data in humans, monkeys and rodents in a standardized manner using the same method. To do this, they used simultaneously-measured EEG and fMRI data from anesthetized patients that had been generated in a previously conducted study at the Technical University of Munich. “We first looked to see whether the burst-suppression detected in the EEG was also visible in the fMRI data and whether it showed a certain pattern,” says Nikoloz Sirmpilatze. “Based on that, we developed a new algorithm that allowed detecting burst-suppression events in the experimental animals using fMRI, without additional EEG measurement.”


The researchers then performed fMRI measurements in anesthetized long-tailed macaques, common marmosets and rats. In all animals, they were able to detect and precisely localize burst-suppression as a function of anesthetic concentration. The spatial distribution of burst-suppression showed that in both humans and monkey species, certain sensory areas, such as the visual cortex, were excluded from it. In contrast, in the rats, the entire cerebral cortex was affected by burst-suppression.


“At the moment, we can only speculate about the reasons,” says Nikoloz Sirmpilatze, who was awarded the German Primate Center's 2021 PhD Thesis Award for his work. “Primates orient themselves mainly through their sense of sight. Therefore, the visual cortex is a highly specialized region that differs from other brain areas by special cell types and structures. In rats, this is not the case. In future studies, we will investigate what exactly happens in these regions during anesthesia to ultimately understand why burst-suppression is not detectable there with fMRI.”


Susann Boretius, head of the Functional Imaging Unit and senior author of the study adds: “The study not only raises the question of the extent to which rodents are suitable models for many areas of human brain research, especially when it comes to anesthesia, but the results also have many implications for neuroscience and the evolution of neural networks in general.”


Reference: Sirmpilatze N, Mylius J, Ortiz-Rios M, et al. Spatial signatures of anesthesia-induced burst-suppression differ between primates and rodents. eLife. 2022;11:e74813. doi: 10.7554/eLife.74813
  

This article has been republished from the following materials. Note: material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.


Advertisement