General anesthesia results in expended cognitive decline for many individuals following surgical procedure. Memory deficits can last for months and affect patient outcome and quality of life. Patient age, duration of surgery, and surgical trauma are all risk factors for postoperative cognitive impairment. A new study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation demonstrates that general anesthesia results in sustained activation of receptors that inhibit brain function. Beverly Orser and colleagues at the University of Toronto found that a single dose of anesthetic impaired memory in mice for up to 3 days. Mice had reduced synaptic plasticity due to increased activation of γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors (GABAARs). Importantly, inhibition of GABAARs reversed memory defects in animals given anesthesia. The results from this study suggest that GABAAR inhibition should be further explored for treating anesthesia induced memory defects.
Sustained increase in α5GABA(A) receptor function impairs memory after anesthesia
Beverley A. Orser
University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, CAN
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