Editorial Views  |   November 2016
Integration and Information: Anesthetic Unconsciousness Finds a New Bandwidth
Author Notes
  • Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, California (A.E.H.); and Department of Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, New York, New York (K.O.P.).
  • Corresponding article on page 929.
    Corresponding article on page 929.×
  • Accepted for publication August 16, 2016.
    Accepted for publication August 16, 2016.×
  • Address correspondence to Dr. Pryor: kap9009@med.cornell.edu
Article Information
Editorial Views / Central and Peripheral Nervous Systems
Editorial Views   |   November 2016
Integration and Information: Anesthetic Unconsciousness Finds a New Bandwidth
Anesthesiology 11 2016, Vol.125, 832-834. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000001344
Anesthesiology 11 2016, Vol.125, 832-834. doi:10.1097/ALN.0000000000001344
THE study of how anesthetic drugs reliably and reversibly cause unconsciousness provides insight not only into anesthetic mechanisms, but also into one of the great questions in all of science: how are humans conscious and what are the necessary and sufficient mechanistic features? One dynamical feature of anesthetic unconsciousness that has been repeatedly identified by multiple investigative groups using different anesthetics is the fragmentation or functional disconnection of cortical areas, whether assessed by electrophysiology or neuroimaging. Yet, upon recovery from anesthesia, we remain ourselves, with our memories, experiences, and personalities largely unchanged. This suggests that the underlying structural connectivity, in the sense of the point-to-point wiring of the brain, is stable during anesthesia, but it is reversibly rendered nonfunctional. How cortical computation becomes fragmented by anesthetics and then reconstitutes itself after recovery thus remains a vital question.
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