WATCH: The Weird Science Behind What Anesthesia Does to the Brain
If you spend enough time on the internet like I do, you can navigate past the pictures of what people are eating for lunch, political ads and opinions, and even the hilarious cat versus cucumber video and stumble across some pretty interesting stuff. For instance, the other day I came across an article that detailed specific types on anesthesia. What really fascinated me was how little scientists really know about how anesthesia, just that it’s safe and that it works. As long as it’s been in use, you’d think we know the ins-and-outs of it, but quite frankly – we don’t.
Anesthesia is broken down into 3 main categories:
You are completely unconscious and can’t feel any pain. You also don’t remember anything. This is the type of anesthesia used for major surgeries and such. General anesthesia involves the use of two drugs: one to knock you out quick and one to wake you up.
Local anesthetics are used to numb pain in a specific area. You don’t loose consciousness and retain full control of your memory.
Read: WATCH: The Amazing Science Behind How our Brains Really Work
Twilight sedation is interesting that it is a combination of the pain inhibition of local anesthesia, but you don’t remember anything. Common applications are things like brain surgeries where the doctor need to know if he is damaging a part of the brain that involves speech or vision.
So here is where anesthesia gets a little weird… There are a wide variety of chemical compounds that all have different molecular make-ups that induce the same reaction from the brain. Scientists have looked for common bonds in these chemicals but are stumped as to why certain chemicals knock us out while similar compounds don’t do anything to the brain at all. Also, when a patient is under general anesthetics it would seem like they are asleep. The truth is, according to brain patterns, they are basically in a coma.
There is no dreaming or other brain activity to speak of, yet they can be woken up. What’s even weirder is that the same chemical compounds work differently on different people. Research has shown that redheads have a naturally higher resistance to anesthesia.
Read: Optogenetics: The Revolution of Neuroscience
Check out the following video from the SciShow for some more fascinating facts about how anesthesia actually works, and how little scientists really know about it. And by all means, be careful about angering a person with red hair, they feel no pain!