Doctoral dissertation (article) (G5)

Anesthetic-induced unresponsiveness: Electroencephalographic correlates and subjective experiences

List of AuthorsKallionpää Roosa

PublisherUniversity of Turku


Publication year2023





Anesthetic drugs can induce reversible alterations in responsiveness, connectedness and consciousness. The measures based on electroencephalogram (EEG) have marked potential for monitoring the anesthetized state because of their relatively easy use in the operating room.

In this study, 79 healthy young men participated in an awake experiment, and 47 participants continued to an anesthesia experiment where they received either dexmedetomidine or propofol as target-controlled infusion with stepwise increments until the loss of responsiveness. The participants were roused during the constant drug infusion and interviewed. The drug dose was increased to 1.5-fold to achieve a deeper unresponsive state. After regaining responsiveness, the participants were interviewed. EEG was measured throughout the experiment and the N400 eventrelated potential component and functional and directed connectivity were studied.

Prefrontal-frontal connectivity in the alpha frequency band discriminated the states that differed with respect to responsiveness or drug concentration. The net direction of connectivity was frontal-to-prefrontal during unresponsiveness and reversed back to prefrontal-to-frontal upon return of responsiveness. The understanding of the meaning of spoken language, as measured with the N400 effect, was lost along with responsiveness but, in the dexmedetomidine group, the N400 component was preserved suggesting partial preservation of the processing of words during anesthetic-induced unresponsiveness. However, the N400 effect could not be detected in all the awake participants and the choice of analysis method had marked impact on its detection rate at the individual-level. Subjective experiences were common during unresponsiveness induced by dexmedetomidine and propofol but the experiences most often suggested disconnectedness from the environment.

In conclusion, the doses of dexmedetomidine or propofol minimally sufficient to induce unresponsiveness do not render the participants unconscious and dexmedetomidine does not completely abolish the processing of semantic stimuli. The local anterior EEG connectivity in the alpha frequency band may have potential in monitoring the depth of dexmedetomidine- and propofol-induced anesthesia.

Last updated on 2023-28-03 at 13:14