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Lower concentrations of the anaesthetic agent isoflurane cause cognitive impairment in mice


Historically, safety in surgical procedure has been prioritized over the refinement of procedures leading to unwanted secondary effects. Anaesthesia in a necessary phase for the major surgical practices, whether in human or in animals.
One of the most commonly used anaesthetic agent in veterinary practice is isoflurane. It has been constantly preferred over other agents for its immediate reversibility and quick clearance from the body.
Nevertheless, several human patients have been reporting in clinical studies difficulties with concentration and memory for days or weeks after surgery.
Isoflurane acts on the central nervous system, more specifically, it interferes with the synaptic transmission at protein sites.
Recent findings have indicated that drugs acting on specific synaptic receptors induce widespread neuronal apoptosis. Cell death at a neurological level may have serious implications for the learning capacity.
Anaesthetic agents such as isoflurane do not simply lead to sustained alterations in the central nervous systems but they may do so for an undefined time and with an unpredicted reversibility.
Nowadays there is a growing body of literature supporting the concept that humans and animals undergoing an anaesthetic procedure are exposed to the risk of impairment in their learning capacity.
Previous studies have focused on the ability of animals to retain information after receiving training on a specific spatial task. Nevertheless, the results were surprising as they showed how memory retention after post-training was in fact facilitated in young rodents, but impaired in aged individuals.
To further extend the insight on the effect of isoflurane on memory, I decided to test whether it had any effect on the formation of memory. Furthermore, I used three different concentrations of the anaesthetic agent in order to assess which one would lead to greater impairment at the cognitive level.

Responsible for this page: Agneta Johansson
Last updated: 05/10/08