Neural Correlates of Behavioural Changes During Propofol General Anaesthesia in Caenorhabditis Elegans
Drew Cylinder, Neural Correlates of Behavioural Changes During Propofol General Anaesthesia in Caenorhabditis Elegans
Winner – University of Queensland VYT local competition (2022)
If you’ve ever been under general anaesthesia during surgery, it probably felt a little bit like going to sleep but sleep and general anaesthesia are very different. For example, if you were asleep and I stabbed you with a knife, you would probably wake up! Not so if you were under general anaesthesia.
Now we use general anaesthetics all the time, but we don’t really know how they work. I study how the communication between brain cells called neurons gets disrupted during general anaesthesia. This would be too hard to study in a human brain. It’s much too complicated. So instead, I use a microscopic worm called C. elegans. Worm neurons work in a similar way to humans, but their nervous system is much simpler.
One experiment involves worms that have been genetically modified to have neurons that fluoresce when active. This allows me to see how patterns of neuronal activity change during general anaesthesia.
Understanding the mechanism underlying general anaesthesia could someday lead to better general anaesthetics with fewer side effects and better patient outcomes.