From the *Department of Anesthesia, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Toronto, Ontario, CanadaDepartments of †Physiology‡Anesthesia, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada§Department of Pediatric Anesthesiology, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois∥Department of Anesthesiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri.
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SmartTots (http://smarttots.org/) represents a public–private partnership between the International Anesthesia Research Society and the US Food and Drug Administration. Over the past 7 years, SmartTots has worked in collaboration with various stakeholders to determine whether anesthetic drugs have detrimental effects on the developing brain. SmartTots has funded clinical and preclinical studies, organized meetings, served as a repository of peer-reviewed information, and facilitated the development of consensus-based statements. Here, we report advances in the field of anesthetic neurotoxicity and provide an update on SmartTots’ activities. Clinical studies have provided some reassurance that a brief exposure to anesthetic drugs does not cause overt, persistent cognitive deficits. New recommendations aim to increase the reproducibility and “clinical relevance” of data from studies of laboratory animals. Overall, the field has advanced substantially; however, it remains paramount to definitively resolve whether anesthetic drugs are neurotoxic to the immature brain. The results of SmartTots efforts will either ally unwarranted fears or substantially change pediatric anesthetic practice and prompt studies to identify neuroprotective strategies.