Upcoming meeting

Waking Up - brain systems and recovery from anesthesia
February 9-11, 2011
Emory Conference Center, Atlanta, GA


Each day, anesthesiologists perform an incredible feat.  Thousands of individuals are rendered temporarily unconscious by surgical anesthesia.  Most of these individuals will “wake up” with their cognitive abilities, their memories, their knowledge of the world, and their sense of continuity of self, intact.   The single blank spot in the recovered person’s conscious awareness is the period of time during which an individual is under anesthesia.    What accounts for the ability of the CNS to maintain a lifetime of information during the period of unconsciousness due to anesthesia when even brief episodes of unconsciousness due to injury or interruptions in cerebral metabolism can cause serious, irreversible losses of function?   What makes it possible for the CNS to essentially “reboot” as the anesthetic is withdrawn?    Does recovery of function following anesthesia reveal aspects of the organization of neural and cognitive systems?  This workshop will explore what we do and do not know about the processes involved in regaining consciousness following surgical anesthesia.  Other questions the workshop will consider include:

  1. In what ways does what we know about emerging from anesthesia resemble or depart from what is known about emergence from coma (metabolic and/or traumatic) or waking from sleep?
  2. Does emergence from anesthesia follow a predictable pattern reflective of some network organization within the central nervous system?
  3. How can imaging methods (eg  fMRI, rMRI,  PET, MRS, MEG) address these and other questions in humans?

Participants are welcome to pose additional questions that we can consider during our deliberations.   The meeting will have a website where we plan to post suggested readings.   It is expected that the workshop will have tangible outcomes including the development of research projects.

A recent PNAS commentary on the topic can be found at http://www.pnas.org/content/105/7/2257.full