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BACKGROUND: Both the cerebral cortex and subcortical structures play important roles in consciousness. Some evidence points to general anaesthesia-induced unconsciousness being associated with distinct patterns of superficial cortical electrophysiological oscillations, but how general anaesthetics influence deep brain neural oscillations and interactions between oscillations in humans is poorly understood. METHODS: Local field potentials were recorded in discrete deep brain regions, including anterior cingulate cortex, sensory thalamus, and periaqueductal grey, in humans with implanted deep brain electrodes during induction of unconsciousness with propofol. Power-frequency spectra, phase-amplitude coupling, coherence, and directed functional connectivity analysis were used to characterise local field potentials in the awake and unconscious states. RESULTS: An increase in alpha (7-13 Hz) power and decrease in gamma (30-90 Hz) power were observed in both deep cortical (ACC, anterior cingulate cortex) and subcortical (sensory thalamus, periaqueductal grey) areas during propofol-induced unconsciousness. Robust alpha-low gamma (30-60 Hz) phase-amplitude coupling induced by general anaesthesia was observed in the anterior cingulate cortex but not in other regions studied. Moreover, alpha oscillations during unconsciousness were highly coherent within the anterior cingulate cortex, and this rhythm exhibited a bidirectional information flow between left and right anterior cingulate cortex but stronger left-to-right flow. CONCLUSION: Propofol increases alpha oscillations and attenuates gamma oscillations in both cortical and subcortical areas. The alpha-gamma phase-amplitude coupling and the functional connectivity of alpha oscillations in the anterior cingulate cortex could be specific markers for loss of consciousness.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Anaesth

Publication Date





303 - 313


anaesthesia, anterior cingulate cortex, local field potential, periaqueductal grey, thalamus