Suppressing the Mind

Part of the series Contemporary Clinical Neuroscience pp 11-31


Molecular Targets of General Anesthetics in the Nervous System

  • Hugh C. HemmingsJrAffiliated withDepartment of Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medical College Email author 

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Current concepts of the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie general anesthetic actions are incomplete. This is both surprising, given that leading scientists have approached this problem for more than a century, and unfortunate since this lack of knowledge limits our ability to employ these important drugs with optimal safety and efficacy. Considerable evidence now implicates agent-specific effects on discreet molecular targets and neuronal networks central to specific anesthetic end points. Major progress in understanding the molecular pharmacology of the intravenous anesthetics has been made using modern genetic approaches, but the actions of the inhaled anesthetics have been more difficult to resolve. This chapter provides an overview of the principal molecular targets implicated in mediating the effects of general anesthetics on vertebrate neuronal function.


Mechanisms of anesthesia pharmacology general anesthetics pharmacology ion channels synaptic transmission inhaled anesthetics intravenous anesthetics