Date of Award

Fall 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biomedical Engineering

First Advisor

Ropella, Kristina M.

Second Advisor

Hudetz, Anthony G.

Third Advisor

Beardsley, Scott


General anesthesia consists of amnesia, analgesia, areflexia and unconsciousness. How anesthetics suppress consciousness has been a mystery for more than one and a half centuries.

The overall goal of my research has been to determine the neural correlates of anesthetic-induced loss of consciousness. I hypothesized that anesthetics induce unconsciousness by interfering with the functional connectivity of neuronal networks of the brain and consequently, reducing the brain's capacity for information processing. To test this hypothesis, I performed experiments in which neuronal spiking activity was measured with chronically implanted microelectrode arrays in the visual cortex of freely-moving rats during wakefulness and at graded levels of anesthesia produced by the inhalational anesthetic agent desflurane. I then applied linear and non-parametric information-theoretic analyses to quantify the concentration-dependent effect of general anesthetics on spontaneous and visually evoked spike firing activity in rat primary visual cortex.

Results suggest that desflurane anesthesia disrupts cortical neuronal integration as measured by monosynaptic connectivity, spike burst coherence and information capacity. This research furthers our understanding of the mechanisms involved with the anesthetic-induced LOC which may facilitate in the development of better anesthetic monitoring devices and the creation of effective anesthetic agents that will be free of unwanted side effects.