An information-processing theory of anesthesia

Neuropsychologia 33:1169-80 (1995)
A theory of anaesthesia is presented. It consists of four hypotheses: (1) The occurrence of states of consciousness causally depends on the formation of transient higher-order, self-referential mental representations. The occurrence of such states is identical with the appearance of conscious phenomena. Loss of consciousness will occur, if and only if the brain's representational activity falls below a critical threshold. (2) Mental representations are instantiated by neural cell assemblies. (3) The formation of assemblies involves the activation of the NMDA receptor channel complex. The activation state of this receptor determines the rate at which assemblies are generated. (4) General anaesthetics have a common operative mechanism: they directly or indirectly affect the function of the NMDA system.
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