Mesopontine Switch for the Induction of General Anesthesia by Dedicated Neural Pathways

Inna Sukhotinsky, Anne Minert, Peter Soja, Marshall Devor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We review evidence that the induction of anesthesia with GABAergic agents is mediated by a network of dedicated axonal pathways, which convey a suppressive signal to remote parts of the central nervous system. The putative signal originates in an anesthetic-sensitive locus in the brainstem that we refer to as the mesopontine tegmental anesthesia area (MPTA). This architecture stands in contrast to the classical notion that anesthetic molecules themselves directly mediate anesthetic induction after global distribution by the vascular circulation. The MPTA came to light in a systematic survey of the rat brain as a singular locus at which microinjection of minute quantities of GABAergic anesthetics is able to reversibly induce a state resembling surgical anesthesia. The rapid onset of anesthesia, the observed target specificity, and the fact that effective doses are far too small to survive dilution during vascular redistribution to distant areas in the central nervous system are all incompatible with the classical global suppression model. Lesioning the MPTA selectively reduces the animal's sensitivity to systemically administered anesthetics. Taken together, the microinjection data show that it is sufficient to deliver γ-aminobutyric acid A receptor (GABA A -R) agonists to the MPTA to induce an anesthesia-like state and the lesion data indicate that MPTA neurons are necessary for anesthetic induction by the systemic route at clinically relevant doses. Known connectivity of the MPTA provides a scaffold for defining the specific projection pathways that mediate each of the functional components of anesthesia. Because MPTA lesions do not induce coma, the MPTA is not a key arousal nucleus essential for maintaining the awake state. Rather, it appears be a "gatekeeper" of arousal function, a major element in a flip-flop switching mechanism that executes rapid and reversible transitions between the awake and the anesthetic state.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1274-1285
Number of pages12
JournalAnesthesia and Analgesia
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2016 International Anesthesia Research Society.


Dive into the research topics of 'Mesopontine Switch for the Induction of General Anesthesia by Dedicated Neural Pathways'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this