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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2010 May;30(5):1017-30. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2009.274. Epub 2010 Jan 13.

Isoflurane anesthesia induced persistent, progressive memory impairment, caused a loss of neural stem cells, and reduced neurogenesis in young, but not adult, rodents.

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  • 1Center for Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden.


Isoflurane and related anesthetics are widely used to anesthetize children, ranging from premature babies to adolescents. Concerns have been raised about the safety of these anesthetics in pediatric patients, particularly regarding possible negative effects on cognition. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of repeated isoflurane exposure of juvenile and mature animals on cognition and neurogenesis. Postnatal day 14 (P14) rats and mice, as well as adult (P60) rats, were anesthetized with isoflurane for 35 mins daily for four successive days. Object recognition, place learning and reversal learning as well as cell death and cytogenesis were evaluated. Object recognition and reversal learning were significantly impaired in isoflurane-treated young rats and mice, whereas adult animals were unaffected, and these deficits became more pronounced as the animals grew older. The memory deficit was paralleled by a decrease in the hippocampal stem cell pool and persistently reduced neurogenesis, subsequently causing a reduction in the number of dentate gyrus granule cell neurons in isoflurane-treated rats. There were no signs of increased cell death of progenitors or neurons in the hippocampus. These findings show a previously unknown mechanism of neurotoxicity, causing cognitive deficits in a clearly age-dependent manner.

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