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Brain network signatures track and predict response to general anaesthesia

The complex pattern of ‘chatter’ between different areas of an individual’s brain while they are awake could help doctors better track and even predict their response to general anaesthesia – and better identify the amount of anaesthetic necessary – according to new research published in PLOS Computational Biology.

Currently, patients due to undergo surgery are given a dose of anaesthetic based on the so-called ‘Marsh model’, which uses factors such as an individual’s body weight to predict the amount of drug needed. As patients ‘go under’, their levels of awareness are monitored in a relatively crude way. If they are still deemed awake, they are simply given more anaesthetic. However, general anaesthetics can carry risks, particularly if an individual has an underlying health condition such as a heart disorder.

As areas of the brain communicate with each other, they give off tell-tale signals that can give an indication of how conscious an individual is. These ‘network’ of brain activity can be measured using an EEG (electroencephalogram), which measures electric signals as brain cells talk to each other. Previous research has shown that these network signatures can even be seen in some people in a vegetative state and may help doctors identify patients who are aware despite being unable to communicate.

Brain response to general anaesthesia
Brain Network Signatures Track and Predict Response to General Anaesthesia
Image Credit: Chennu et al.