What’s the neu­ro­log­i­cal dif­fer­ence be­tween anaesthesia and sleep?

Focus-Science and Technology - - Q&A - SOPHIA WAN, CROY­DON

If a neu­ro­sci­en­tist used elec­troen­cephalog­ra­phy (EEG) to record your brain’s elec­tri­cal ac­tiv­ity while you were un­der anaesthesia, the re­sults would look dif­fer­ent from how they ap­pear when you are sleep­ing. In fact, your brain waves un­der anaesthesia would more closely re­sem­ble those seen were you to have the ter­ri­ble mis­for­tune of falling into a coma after brain ill­ness or in­jury. Doc­tors of­ten tell surgery pa­tients that they will be ‘put to sleep’ dur­ing the op­er­a­tion, but in terms of the neu­ro­log­i­cal ef­fects of the anaesthesia, it would be more ac­cu­rate (and more un­set­tling) to tell them that they will be put into a re­versible coma.

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