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Pharmacologic modulation of the state of consciousness is of interest for clinical practice and for a better understanding of anesthetic mechanisms. The cholinergic activating system is an important regulator of the state of consciousness during general anesthesia. Entropy of the electroencephalogram has been proposed as a promising measure of anesthetic depth. The authors have shown that volatile anesthetics decrease cross-approximate entropy (C-ApEn) of the bihemispheric frontal electroencephalogram in rats. The effect of cholinergic agents on C-ApEn has not been examined. Here, the authors test the hypothesis that cholinergic activation reverses the effect of isoflurane anesthesia on C-ApEn.An electroencephalogram in the 1- to 100-Hz range was recorded bipolarly, with epidural leads from the frontal cortex of both hemispheres, and used to calculate C-ApEn, which reflects statistical independence of bihemispheric electroencephalographic activity. Cholinesterase inhibitor, neostigmine (25 μg), or the muscarinic agonist oxotremorine (25 μg) were infused intracerebroventricularly while the rats were inhaling 1.0% (0.7 minimum alveolar concentration) isoflurane. In other animals, isoflurane was lowered to 0.4% (0.3 minimum alveolar concentration) to assess the electroencephalogram in a sedated, waking state.At 1.0% isoflurane, C-ApEn decreased by 54% compared with that at 0.4%, but the motor reflex response to tail pinch was still present. Cholinergic agents reversed the electroencephalogram-depressant effect of isoflurane, i.e., C-ApEn rose to the level measured at 0.4% isoflurane. The rise in C-ApEn was paralleled by the appearance of spontaneous limb and orofacial explorative movements, suggesting a return of consciousness. In contrast, cholinergic agents fully blocked the motor reflex to tail pinch.C-ApEn of the bihemispheric electroencephalogram correlates with the return of spontaneous motor signs but not with the nociceptive reflex. Cerebral cholinergic activation dissociates central and peripheral anesthetic effects. C-ApEn, a novel measure of interhemispheric electroencephalogram independence, is a promising correlate of depth of sedation and state of consciousness.