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Research Summary

Hall, J, Saxeena, N, Muthukumaraswamy, S, Singh, K, Wise, R (2013 - 2014) Understanding the mechanisms of sedation: Effects of GABAergic and non GABAergic sedatives on magnetoencephalographic visual gamma responses.  National Institute of Academic Anaesthesia.  £15,750.

Summary

While safe anaesthetic drugs are used daily in hospitals around the world, the way in which they work to cause sedation and unconsciousness remains poorly understood. Other aspects of anaesthesia which are of great importance such as loss of awareness and pain relief are also not very well understood.  Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) is a chemical that causes suppression of brain activity at the level of nerve cells. The balance between activation and suppression is vital in maintaining the right level of functioning of the brain. GABA not only plays an important role in normal activities such as sleep but also in sedation (caused by sedative drugs) and even diseases such as epilepsy and schizophrenia. Nerve cells receiving signals through GABA are considered responsible for controlling rapid firing of nerve cells (gamma oscillations, at rates of 30 – 80 per second). Such rapid firing of nerve cells is considered key in the different parts of the brain communicating with each other, while doing different functions, thus helping maintain conscious states. It has been suggested that anaesthetic drugs may cause sedation and unconsciousness by affecting this communication mechanism.