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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Dec 7;107(49):21170-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1011949107. Epub 2010 Nov 15.

Stable and dynamic cortical electrophysiology of induction and emergence with propofol anesthesia.

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Washington University School of Medicine, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.


The mechanism(s) by which anesthetics reversibly suppress consciousness are incompletely understood. Previous functional imaging studies demonstrated dynamic changes in thalamic and cortical metabolic activity, as well as the maintained presence of metabolically defined functional networks despite the loss of consciousness. However, the invasive electrophysiology associated with these observations has yet to be studied. By recording electrical activity directly from the cortical surface, electrocorticography (ECoG) provides a powerful method to integrate spatial, temporal, and spectral features of cortical electrophysiology not possible with noninvasive approaches. In this study, we report a unique comprehensive recording of invasive human cortical physiology during both induction and emergence from propofol anesthesia. Propofol-induced transitions in and out of consciousness (defined here as responsiveness) were characterized by maintained large-scale functional networks defined by correlated fluctuations of the slow cortical potential (<0.5 Hz) over the somatomotor cortex, present even in the deeply anesthetized state of burst suppression. Similarly, phase-power coupling between θ- and γ-range frequencies persisted throughout the induction and emergence from anesthesia. Superimposed on this preserved functional architecture were alterations in frequency band power, variance, covariance, and phase-power interactions that were distinct to different frequency ranges and occurred in separable phases. These data support that dynamic alterations in cortical and thalamocortical circuit activity occur in the context of a larger stable architecture that is maintained despite anesthetic-induced alterations in consciousness.

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