Experimental Brain Research

, Volume 237, Issue 6, pp 1521–1529 | Cite as

The effect of sevoflurane and isoflurane anesthesia on single unit and local field potentials

  • Daniil P. AksenovEmail author
  • Michael J. Miller
  • Conor J. Dixon
  • Alice M. Wyrwicz
Research Article


Volatile general anesthetics are used commonly in adults and children, yet their mechanisms of action are complex and the changes in single unit firing and synaptic activity that underlie the broad decreases in neuronal activity induced by these drugs have not been well characterized. Capturing such changes throughout the anesthesia process is important for comparing the effects of different anesthetics and gaining a better understanding of their mechanisms of action and their impact on different brain regions. Using chronically implanted electrodes in the rabbit somatosensory cortex, we compared the effects of two common general anesthetics, isoflurane, and sevoflurane, on cortical neurons. Single unit activity and local field potentials (LFP) were recorded continuously before and during anesthetic delivery at 1 MAC, as well as during recovery. Our findings show that although isoflurane and sevoflurane belong to the same class of volatile general anesthetics, their effects upon cortical single units and LFP were quite different. Overall, the suppression of neuronal firing was greater and more uniform under sevoflurane. Moreover, the changes in LFP frequency bands suggest that effect of anesthesia upon beta oscillations does not necessarily depend on the level of single unit activity, but rather on the changes in GABA/glutamate neurotransmission induced by each drug.


Local field potentials Beta oscillations Volatile anesthetics Single-neuron activity 



This work was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R01GM112715).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors declared no conflict of interest.


  1. Akeju O, Westover MB, Pavone KJ, Sampson AL, Hartnack KE, Brown EN, Purdon PL (2014) Effects of sevoflurane and propofol on frontal electroencephalogram power and coherence. Anesthesiology 121:990–998CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akrawi WP, Drummond JC, Kalkman CJ, Patel PM (1996) A comparison of the electrophysiologic characteristics of EEG burst-suppression as produced by isoflurane, thiopental, etomidate, and propofol. J Neurosurg Anesthesiol 8:40–46CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aksenov DP, Li L, Miller MJ, Iordanescu G, Wyrwicz AM (2015) Effects of anesthesia on BOLD signal and neuronal activity in the somatosensory cortex. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab 35:1819–1826CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alkire MT, Haier RJ, Fallon JH (2000) Toward a unified theory of narcosis: brain imaging evidence for a thalamocortical switch as the neurophysiologic basis of anesthetic-induced unconsciousness. Conscious Cogn 9(3):370–386CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Anderson PM, Jones NC, O’Brien TJ, Pinault D (2017) The N-methyl d-aspartate glutamate receptor antagonist ketamine disrupts the functional state of the corticothalamic pathway. Cereb Cortex 27:3172–3185Google Scholar
  6. Buzsaki G, Anastassiou CA, Koch C (2012) ‘The origin of extracellular fields and currents–EEG, ECoG, LFP and spikes. Nat Rev Neurosci 13:407–420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chae YJ, Zhang J, Au P, Sabbadini M, Xie GX, Yost CS (2010) Discrete change in volatile anesthetic sensitivity in mice with inactivated tandem pore potassium ion channel TRESK. Anesthesiology 113:1326–1337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Christie SB, Miralles CP, De Blas AL (2002) GABAergic innervation organizes synaptic and extrasynaptic GABAA receptor clustering in cultured hippocampal neurons. J Neurosci 22:684–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Constant I, Dubois MC, Piat V, Moutard ML, McCue M, Murat I (1999) Changes in electroencephalogram and autonomic cardiovascular activity during induction of anesthesia with sevoflurane compared with halothane in children. Anesthesiology 91:1604–1615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Douglas RJ, Martin KA (2004) Neuronal circuits of the neocortex. Annu Rev Neurosci 27:419–451CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Drummond JC (1985) MAC for halothane, enflurane, and isoflurane in the New Zealand white rabbit: and a test for the validity of MAC determinations. Anesthesiology 62:336–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Franks NP, Lieb WR (1988) Volatile general anaesthetics activate a novel neuronal K+ current. Nature 333:662–664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Freye E, Bruckner J, Latasch L (2004) No difference in electroencephalographic power spectra or sensory-evoked potentials in patients anaesthetized with desflurane or sevoflurane. Eur J Anaesthesiol 21:373–378CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hagihira S (2015) Changes in the electroencephalogram during anaesthesia and their physiological basis. Br J Anaesth 115(Suppl 1):i27–i31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hartikainen K, Rorarius M, Makela K, Perakyla J, Varila E, Jantti V (1995a) Visually evoked bursts during isoflurane anaesthesia. Br J Anaesth 74:681–685CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hartikainen K, Rorarius M, Makela K, Yli-Hankala A, Jantti V (1995b) Propofol and isoflurane induced EEG burst suppression patterns in rabbits. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 39:814–818CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Herrmann CS, Struber D, Helfrich RF, Engel AK (2016) EEG oscillations: from correlation to causality. Int J Psychophysiol 103:12–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hight D, Voss LJ, Garcia PS, Sleigh J (2017) Changes in alpha frequency and power of the electroencephalogram during volatile-based general anesthesia. Front Syst Neurosci 11:36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hudetz AG, Imas OA (2007) Burst activation of the cerebral cortex by flash stimuli during isoflurane anesthesia in rats. Anesthesiology 107:983–991CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ishizawa Y, Ahmed OJ, Patel SR, Gale JT, Sierra-Mercado D, Brown EN, Eskandar EN (2016) Dynamics of propofol-induced loss of consciousness across primate neocortex. J Neurosci 36:7718–7726CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kroeger D, Amzica F (2007) Hypersensitivity of the anesthesia-induced comatose brain. J Neurosci 27:10597–10607CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Larsen M, Valo ET, Berg-Johnsen J, Langmoen IA (1998) Isoflurane reduces synaptic glutamate release without changing cytosolic free calcium in isolated nerve terminals. Eur J Anaesthesiol 15:224–229CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Luethy A, Boghosian JD, Srikantha R, Cotten JF (2017) Halogenated ether, alcohol, and alkane anesthetics activate TASK-3 tandem pore potassium channels likely through a common mechanism. Mol Pharmacol 91:620–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Nishikawa K, Harrison NL (2003) The actions of sevoflurane and desflurane on the gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor type A: effects of TM2 mutations in the alpha and beta subunits. Anesthesiology 99:678–684CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Patel AJ, Honore E, Lesage F, Fink M, Romey G, Lazdunski M (1999) Inhalational anesthetics activate two-pore-domain background K+ channels. Nat Neurosci 2:422–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Prabhakar NR, Semenza GL (2015) Oxygen sensing and homeostasis. Physiology (Bethesda) 30:340–348Google Scholar
  27. Purdon PL, Sampson A, Pavone KJ, Brown EN (2015) Clinical Electroencephalography for anesthesiologists: Part I: background and basic signatures. Anesthesiology 123:937–960CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Quiroga RQ, Nadasdy Z, Ben-Shaul Y (2004) Unsupervised spike detection and sorting with wavelets and superparamagnetic clustering. Neural Comput 16:1661–1687CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schwender D, Daunderer M, Klasing S, Finsterer U, Peter K (1998) Power spectral analysis of the electroencephalogram during increasing end-expiratory concentrations of isoflurane, desflurane and sevoflurane. Anaesthesia 53:335–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sheng M, Liu P, Mao D, Ge Y, Lu H (2017) The impact of hyperoxia on brain activity: a resting-state and task-evoked electroencephalography (EEG) study. PLoS One 12:e0176610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Shushruth S (2013) Exploring the neural basis of consciousness through anesthesia. J Neurosci 33:1757–1758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Sitdikova G, Zakharov A, Janackova S, Gerasimova E, Lebedeva J, Inacio AR, Zaynutdinova D, Minlebaev M, Holmes GL, Khazipov R (2014) Isoflurane suppresses early cortical activity. Ann Clin Transl Neurol 1:15–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Stachnik J (2006) Inhaled anesthetic agents. Am J Health Syst Pharm 63:623–634CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Swadlow HA (1989) Efferent neurons and suspected interneurons in S-1 vibrissa cortex of the awake rabbit: receptive fields and axonal properties. J Neurophysiol 62:288–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. van Lier H, Drinkenburg WH, van Eeten YJ, Coenen AM (2004) Effects of diazepam and zolpidem on EEG beta frequencies are behavior-specific in rats. Neuropharmacology 47:163–174CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Vinje ML, Moe MC, Valo ET, Berg-Johnsen J (2002) The effect of sevoflurane on glutamate release and uptake in rat cerebrocortical presynaptic terminals. Acta Anaesthesiol Scand 46:103–108CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Williams DC, Aleman MR, Brosnan RJ, Fletcher DJ, Holliday TA, Tharp B, Kass PH, Steffey EP, LeCouteur RA (2016) Electroencephalogram of healthy horses during inhaled anesthesia. J Vet Intern Med 30:304–308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wyrwicz AM, Chen N-K, Li L, Weiss C, Disterhoft JF (2000) fMRI of visual system activation in the conscious rabbit. Magn Res Med 44:474–478CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Yao C, Li Y, Shu S, Yao S, Lynch C, Bayliss DA, Chen X (2017) TASK channels contribute to neuroprotective action of inhalational anesthetics. Sci Rep 7:44203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Yin Y, Yan M, Zhu T (2012) Minimum alveolar concentration of sevoflurane in rabbits with liver fibrosis. Anesth Analg 114:561–565CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NorthShore University HealthSystemEvanstonUSA

Personalised recommendations