Controlling and Reanimating the Brain

Neuroscientist Emery Brown on the anesthetic state, the arousal network, and medical coma

videos | October 12, 2015

Which drug can induce emergence from anesthesia? How can the effects of anesthetics be counteracted? What are the effects of anesthesia on the elderly? These and other questions are answered by Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School Emery Brown.

What’s very interesting about the way anesthesia is done is we administer a wide range of drugs – three or four different drug classes: so it may be inhaled drugs, like the ether anesthetics, including nitrous oxide (which is an ether, but is also an inhaled drug), drugs to treat pain, primarily opioids, narcotics, drugs which induce unconsciousness, like

Prof. Emery Brown of MIT on the rapid eye movement stage of sleep, electroencephalogram patterns, and the role of GABA receptors
propofol, perhaps, etomidate, in the past – the barbiturates. We use combinations of these to produce the anesthetic state, we administer them actively to keep the patient in the state, however, when we are done we decide based on our understanding of the patient, how long the surgery has gone on, how to turn them off, and we let the patient recover passively. Thinking about the future, what if we were to reanimate the brain? What if we were to turn it back on what if we were to administer a drug or a set of drugs which, after we turned the brain off and we it held off, would turn it back on?

Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School, Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, Massachusetts General Hospital; Professor of Computational Neuroscience, Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, MIT; Professor of Health Sciences and Technology, Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, MIT
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