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Principal Investigator

Christopher W. Connor, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Anesthesiology | Brigham & Women’s Hospital
Research Associate Professor in Physiology & Biophysics | Boston University

Dr. Connor’s current research studies the action of volatile anesthetic gases on the behavior of neural circuits within C. elegans, imaged in real time and in vivo using calcium-sensitive fluorescent microscopy. The goal is to elucidate basic mechanisms of consciousness, and to understand how volatile anesthetics are able to induce unconsciousness safely.

  • NIH R01 GM121457 “Pan-neuronal functional imaging and anesthesia.”
  • NIH UL1 TR001430 “Analysis of the network effects of volatile anesthetics employing multi-neuronal fluorescent imaging in C. elegans.”
  • Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Boston University
  • Department of Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Research Focus

Volatile  anesthetics  produce all stages  of general anesthesia  including un consciousness,  amnesia, analgesia and muscle  relaxation. Various theories have  been developed to explain the effects  induced by volatile anesthetics. To date,  research has proceeded along essentially two  tracks: the gross measurement of neuronal activity  in entire regions of the brain using fMRI and EEG (which  are fundamentally limited by resolution), or molecular analysis  looking for specific receptors of volatile anesthetics (which has  largely foundered). These lines of analyses have largely ground to  a halt in recent years without providing any satisfactory answer as  to how the clinical state of general anesthesia is produced. This lack  of knowledge is not without consequence: permanent and damaging post-operative  effects are observed in both the young and very old.

Fortunately,  using novel fluorescent  microscopy, we are now able  to imageneuronal activity in real-time, in  vivo,  and  at resolutions  capable of simultaneously  capturing the activity of individual  neurons and entire populations of complex  neuronal networks. In our research, we apply  this technique primarily to C elegans,  in which  we are able  to capture the  activity of the entire  nervous system with single  neuron resolution. In addition,  we perform analogous experiments in  mice, imaging a subsection of the somatosensory  cortex. With these model systems, we are testing  the following hypothesis: that the  effect  of volatile  anesthetics cannot  be understood simply  by its primary action  on the individual neuron,  but rather through the disruption  of the coordinated activity within neuronal  networks to produce the clinical state of anesthesia.

Most  recent  presentations  of this particular  work

“See  the Effect  of Volatile Anesthetics  on Communication Within the Nervous System:  In vivo Multineuronal  Fluorescent Imaging of the  Anesthesized C. elegans” 2017  Annual Meeting  of the American  Society of Anesthesiologists, October  21, 2017,  Boston,  MA.

“Multi-neuronal  imaging to understand  the effects of volatile  anesthetics  in C. elegans.” 21st International  C. elegans Conference,  June 21-25, 2017, UCLA,  Los Angeles CA.

News from Dr. Connor

Dr. Connor released a simulation app through the Apple App Store called “Brigham Anesthesia Simulator“.

Dr. Connor gave a Best of Basic Sciences presentation “Functional Flourescent Imaging of Anesthetic Induction” at ASA 2018.

Recent Publications
  • Hudson AE. Flashes of Insight: Applying New Techniques to a Classic Model. Anesthesiology. 2018 Oct;129(4):629-630. PubMed PMID: 30074933.
  • Harrison MJ, Connor CW, Cumin D. Pediatric blood pressures during anesthesia assessed using normalization and principal component analysis techniques. J Clin  Monit Comput. 2018 Sep 28. PubMed PMID: 30267373.
  • Connor CW. Optimizing target control of the vessel rich group with volatile anesthetics. J Clin Monit Comput. 2018 Jun 21. PubMed PMID: 29931573.
Current Research Team

Mehraj Awal
Graduate Student

Mehraj is a current PhD student in the department of Physiology and Biophysics. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry and Biology from Brandeis University and is interested in understanding the alterations in neurocircuitry caused by the application of anesthetics.

Christopher V. Gabel, PhD
Physiologist and Biophysicist

Dr. Gabel is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at Boston University. His research focuses on the use of C. elegans as a simple yet powerful model system to understand how neuronal activity and cellular calcium signaling modulates neuronal response and regeneration following cellular damage.

Daniel Taub
Graduate Student

Dan is a current PhD student in Biophysics. He received his BA from Hampshire College in Neuroscience and Endocrinology. He is interested in how to enable a pro-regenerative response after injury in the nervous system through calcium and metabolic signaling pathways.

Gregory Wirak
Graduate Student

Gregory received his BS in Physiology & Neurobiology and Molecular & Cellular Biology from the UConn. His current research focuses on calcium imaging, optogenetics, and femtosecond laser microsurgery in the C. elegans nervous system.

Christopher W. Connor

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