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Anesthesiology. 2011 Oct;115(4):733-42. doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e31822c5ee1.

Norepinephrine infusion into nucleus basalis elicits microarousal in desflurane-anesthetized rats.

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Department of Biophysics, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53226, USA.



The nucleus basalis of Meynert of the basal forebrain has been implicated in the regulation of the state of consciousness across normal sleep-wake cycles. Its role in the modulation of general anesthesia was investigated.


Rats were chronically implanted with bilateral infusion cannulae in the nucleus basalis of Meynert and epidural electrodes to record the electroencephalogram in frontal and visual cortices. Animals were anesthetized with desflurane at a concentration required for the loss of righting reflex (4.6 ± 0.5%). Norepinephrine (17.8 nmol) or artificial cerebrospinal fluid was infused at 0.2 μl/min (1 μl total). Behavioral response to infusion was measured by scoring the orofacial, limb, and head movements, and postural changes.


Behavioral responses were higher after norepinephrine (2.1 ± 1) than artificial cerebrospinal fluid (0.63 ± 0.8) infusion (P < 0.01, Student t test). Responses were brief (1-2 min), repetitive, and more frequent after norepinephrine infusion (P < 0.0001, chi-square test). Electroencephalogram delta power decreased after norepinephrine in frontal (70 ± 7%) but not in visual cortex (P < 0.05, Student t test). Simultaneously, electroencephalogram cross-approximate entropy between frontal and visual cortices increased from 3.17 ± 0.56 to 3.85 ± 0.29 after norepinephrine infusion (P < 0.01, Student t test). Behavioral activation was predictable by the decrease in frontal delta power (logistic regression, P < 0.05).


Norepinephrine infusion into the nucleus basalis of Meynert can modulate anesthetic depth presumably by ascending activation of the cortex. The transient nature of the responses suggests a similarity with microarousals normally observed during natural sleep, and may imply a mechanism for transient awareness under light anesthesia.

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