|| Checking for direct PDF access through Ovid
The physiological mechanisms by which anaesthetic drugs modulate oscillatory brain activity remain poorly understood. Combining human data, mathematical and computational analysis of both spiking and mean-field models, we investigated the spectral dynamics of encephalographic (EEG) beta-alpha oscillations, observed in human patients undergoing general anaesthesia. The effect of anaesthetics can be modelled as a reduction of neural fluctuation intensity, and/or an increase in inhibitory synaptic gain in the thalamo-cortical circuit. Unlike previous work, which suggested the primary importance of gamma-amino-butryic-acid (GABA) augmentation in causing a shift to low EEG frequencies, our analysis demonstrates that a non-linear transition, triggered by a simple decrease in neural fluctuation intensity, is sufficient to explain the clinically-observed appearance – and subsequent slowing – of the beta-alpha narrowband EEG peak. In our model, increased synaptic inhibition alone, did not correlate with the clinically-observed encephalographic spectral changes, but did cause the anaesthetic-induced decrease in neuronal firing rate. Taken together, our results show that such a non-linear transition results in functional fragmentation of cortical and thalamic populations; highly correlated intra-population dynamics triggered by anaesthesia decouple and isolate neural populations. Our results are able to parsimoniously unify and replicate the observed anaesthetic effects on both the EEG spectra and inter-regional connectivity, and further highlight the importance of neural activity fluctuations in the genesis of altered brain states.