Functional Implications of an Early Exposure to General Anesthesia: Are We Changing the Behavior of Our Children?
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There is a rapidly growing body of animal and clinical evidence suggesting that the exposure to anesthetics and sedatives during the critical stages of brain development results in long-lasting (perhaps permanent) impairment in cognitive development in a variety of mammalian species. With improved understanding of the mechanisms responsible for behavioral outcomes of anesthesia-induced developmental neurotoxicity, there is hope for development of protective strategies that will enable safe use of anesthesia in the youngest members of our society. Here, I review presently available evidence regarding anesthesia-induced neurocognitive and social behavioral impairments and possible strategies for preventing them. I also review limited and somewhat controversial evidence that examines the effects of nociception and surgical stimulation on anesthesia-induced developmental neurotoxicity.