David Zhou Thesis Defense: Alpha thalamocortical networks during propofol general anesthesia and disorders of consciousness

Tuesday, August 09, 2022 at 3:00pm

Singleton Auditorium, 46-3002 43 Vassar Street, Cambridge MA

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Abstract: Alpha (8-12 Hz) rhythms are a fundamental feature of awake electroencephalography (EEG), thought to be generated by circuits connecting the cortex and thalamus. These rhythms provide a functional architecture for cortical activity underpinning cognitive and sensory pro­cessing. Attenuation of alpha power has been linked to clinical states of unconsciousness. General anesthesia and disorders of consciousness (DoC) offer experimentally-accessible con­ditions in which to study alpha disruptions using scalp and intracranial EEG recordings. To produce novel signatures of posterior alpha loss in DoC, we analyzed coherent networks in EEG of patients during recovery from DoC. To map thalamocortical networks involved in propofol-induced unconsciousness, we conducted coherence analysis of alpha networks in intracranial EEG recorded in patients with pharmacologically-refractory epilepsy and per­formed probabilistic tractography analysis of thalamocortical fibers in a matched cohort of healthy subjects. We found a posterior alpha network in recordings of clinical EEG and intracranial EEG that is lost during states of unconsciousness. We also found that propofol anesthesia induces alpha in medial regions of the frontal cortex and the medial temporal lobe after loss of consciousness. The cortical source of propofol-induced alpha is structurally con­nected to the mediodorsal nucleus of the anterior thalamus, whereas regions that generate waking alpha are connected to the pulvinar nucleus of the sensory thalamus. Our findings suggest that posterior alpha coherence is a unified signature of conscious brain states and that frontal alpha may contribute to cognitive impairment during anesthesia and sedation.

Thesis Supervisor: Emery N. Brown 
Title: Edward Hood Taplin Professor of Medical Engineering and Professor of Computa­tional Neuroscience, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,  and Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School

Thesis Supervisor: Brian L. Edlow 
Title: Associate Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School 

Thesis Supervisor: Patrick L. Purdon 
Title: Nathaniel M. Sims Endowed Chair in Anesthesia Innovation and Bioengineering, Massachusetts General Hospital,  and Associate Professor of Anaesthesia, Harvard Medical School 

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS)
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