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Issue 10, 2006
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High pressure effects in anaesthesia and narcosis

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There is growing interest in determining the effects of high pressure on biological functions. Studies of brain processes under hyperbaric conditions can give a unique insight into phenomena such as nitrogen narcosis, inert gas anaesthesia, and pressure reversal of the effects of anaesthetic and narcotic agents. Such research may shed light on the action of anaesthetics, which remains poorly understood, and on the nature of consciousness itself. Various studies have established the behavioural response of organisms to hyperbaric conditions, in the presence or absence of anaesthetic agents. At the molecular level, X-ray crystallography has been used to investigate the incorporation of species like Xe in hydrophobic pockets within model ion channels that may account for pressure effects on neuronal transmission. New magnetic resonance imaging techniques are providing tomographic three-dimensional images that detail brain structure and function, and that can be correlated with behavioural studies and psychological test results. Such whole organ techniques are linked to the molecular scale via voltage-sensitive dye (VSD) imaging studies on brain slices that provide time-resolved images of the dynamic formation and interconnection of inter-neuronal complexes. The VSD experiments are readily adapted to in situ studies under high pressure conditions. In this tutorial review we review the current state of knowledge of hyperbaric effects on brain processes: anaesthesia and narcosis, recent studies at the molecular level via protein crystallography at high pressure in a Xe atmosphere, and we also present some preliminary results of VSD imaging of brain slices under hyperbaric conditions.

Graphical abstract: High pressure effects in anaesthesia and narcosis

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Publication details

The article was received on 10 May 2006 and first published on 01 Sep 2006

Article type: Tutorial Review
DOI: 10.1039/B517771P
Citation: Chem. Soc. Rev., 2006,35, 890-898
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    High pressure effects in anaesthesia and narcosis

    A. Wlodarczyk, P. F. McMillan and S. A. Greenfield, Chem. Soc. Rev., 2006, 35, 890
    DOI: 10.1039/B517771P

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