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
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.
- 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.
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.