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General Health Channel
Reported October 26, 2012

Yawn: Anesthesia Induces Sleep

(Ivanhoe Broadcast News)—Researchers don’t throw words like "sleep" and "unconsciousness" around lightly. Add anesthesia to the terminology cocktail, and things really get messy. Over 230 million patients a year are given anesthetics, but we still know relatively little about the induced slumber.

"Despite more than 160 years of continuous use in humans, we still do not understand how anesthetic drugs work to produce the state of general anesthesia," said Max Kelz of the University of Pennsylvania said in a previously prepared statement.

Kelz is an anesthesiologist on a mission to pinpoint how exactly our bodies process anesthesia. Just because we are not aware of our surroundings, does not mean we are sleeping.

"Our view is that many general anesthetics work to cause unconsciousness in part by recruiting the brain's natural sleep circuitry, which initiates our nightly journey into unconsciousness."

Kelz and his team used electrical recordings and monitoring techniques on mice to determine that a common inhaled anesthetic stimulates areas of the brain associated with traditional nighttime neural activity. Mice with malfunctioning neurons were less likely to succumb to the anesthesia.

The findings show doctors are literally putting patients to sleep. This data may be used in a clinical setting to better understand human consciousness and improve treatment and mitigation techniques for an array of ailments.

Source: Cell Biology
 

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