Each year, millions of patients receive general anesthesia and sedation for medical procedures. Recent research shows that these drugs can have a strong impact on the way neurons work. Our laboratory studies the effects of commonly used anesthetics on specific groups of neurons and their communication pathways. We hope to better understand how anesthetics affect sleep, cognition, and other brain functions. To achieve this goal, we use rats and mice as animal models, and deploy electron microscopy, immune-histology, molecular, electrophysiology and electroencephalography approaches, alongside transgenic and chemogenetic techniques.

Current Projects

  1. Effects of anesthetics on sleep-wake behavior

Preclinical and clinical studies suggest that exposure to some modern anesthetics evokes sleep-wake disruption. In turn, sleep disturbance may promote altered cognitive states such as delirium, anxiety and depression, that are strongly associated with many morbid postoperative outcomes. Our lab seeks to map the neuronal substrates and circuits that sustain sleep disruption after anesthesia and explore the causative link between anesthetic-induced sleep changes and adverse postoperative neurological outcomes.

  1. Pathogenetic mechanisms of ICU delirium

Intensive Care Unit (ICU) delirium is a common and serious form of acute brain dysfunction in the elderly. The lack of adequate animal models is a major barrier to understanding the mechanisms at the base of delirium and to providing a rationale for its treatment. Our lab has developed a mouse model for delirium that closely mimics the complexity of the clinical conditions leading to delirium in the ICU, including anesthesia, surgery, sedation and sleep disruption. By using this model, we seek to gain a better understanding of the neurobiological mechanisms behind this complex condition and to develop more effective treatments.