Deciphering Mysteries of the Unconscious Brain Under General Anesthesia
November 13, 2014
Emery N. Brown
Professor of Computational Neuroscience, MIT, Professor of Anesthesia, Harvard Medical School
Emery N. Brown will illuminate the invisible us — the ghosts of consciousness within the biological machines we are. General anesthesia is a drug-induced, reversible condition comprised of five behavioral states: unconsciousness, amnesia (loss of memory), analgesia (loss of pain sensation), akinesia (immobility), and hemodynamic stability with control of the stress response. The mechanisms by which anesthetic drugs induce the state of general anesthesia are considered one of the biggest mysteries of modern medicine. We take three approaches to decipher this mystery. First, we present findings from our human studies of general anesthesia using combined fMRI/EEG recordings, high-density EEG recordings and intracranial recordings which have allowed us to give a detailed characterization of the neurophysiology of loss and recovery of consciousness due to propofol. Second, we present a neuro-metabolic model of burst suppression, the profound state of brain inactivation seen in deep states of general anesthesia. We show that our characterization of burst suppression can be used to design a closed-loop anesthesia delivery system for control of a medically-induced coma. Finally, we demonstrate that the state of general anesthesia can be rapidly reversed by activating specific brain circuits. Our results show that it is now possible to have a detailed neurophysiological understanding of the brain under general anesthesia, and that this understanding, can be used to control anesthetic states. Hence, general anesthesia is not a mystery.
About the Speaker
Emery N. Brown received his B.A. (magna cum laude) in Applied Mathematics from Harvard College, his M.A. in statistics from Harvard University, his M.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Medical School and a Ph.D. in statistics from Harvard University. He completed his internship in internal medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and his residency in anesthesiology at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) . He joined the faculty at MGH and Harvard Medical School in 1992 and the faculty at MIT in 2005.
Dr. Brown is the Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering and professor of computational neuroscience at MIT, the Associate Director of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, and the Director of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology Program at MIT. He is the Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School and at MGH, and an anesthesiologist at MGH.
Dr. Brown is an anesthesiologist-statistician whose experimental research has made important conceptual and experimental contributions towards understanding the neuroscience of how anesthetics act in the brain to create the states of general anesthesia. In his methodology research he develops signal processing algorithms to characterize how the brain represents and transmits information. His research has been featured on NPR, in Scientific American, Technology Review, New York Times and in the TEDMED series.
Dr. Brown was a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative Working Group. He is a member of the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund Board of Directors, the National Science Foundation Mathematical and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee, the NIH Council of Councils, the Board of Trustees of the International Anesthesia Research Society and the Governing Council of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Brown is the recipient of a National Institute of Mental Health Independent Scientist Award, the Jerome Sacks Award from the National Institute of Statistical Sciences, an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, and an NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award. Dr. Brown is a fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, the American Statistical Association, the IEEE, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a member of the Institute of Medicine and a member of the National Academy of Sciences.