Probing for Functional Sites of Consciousness with Anesthetics: The Role of the Cytoskeleton
Document Type:ASSC Conference Item
Deposited by:Travis Craddock
Date of Issue:2010
Event Dates:24‐ 27 June 2010
Event Title:ASSC 14
Event Type:ASSC Conference
Abstract:While much of the neurobiological approach to understanding consciousness focuses on the level of the neuron, the nature of general anesthetics makes them a natural molecular probe. Studies on the mechanism of general anesthetic action tend to focus on the interaction of anesthetic agents with subcellular structures, such as GABAa and NMDA receptors, in the hopes of uncovering functional sites of consciousness. In recent years attention has been drawn to the cytoskeleton as a possible site of anesthetic action and functional site of consciousness. The cytoskeleton is essential to cell morphology, cargo trafficking, and cell division. The complex structure of the neuronal cytoskeleton has been implicated to play a role in memory, and a startling number of neurodevelopmental, neurological, and neuropsychiatric disorders show a disordering in its function. However, the role of the cytoskeleton in general anesthesia, and its link to consciousness, remain questionable. To investigate these possibilities we examine the interaction of volatile anesthetics with cytoskeletal microtubules via computational modeling and simulation. Results for putative binding sites of anesthetics to microtubules, with the relation to overall cytoskeleton function, are presented, providing insight on the role of the cytoskeleton in anesthetic action and consciousness.