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The effect of racemic mephobarbital and its optical isomers on survival time of mice exposed to 5% O2 was studied. There was an increase in survival time from 4.2 minutes to 12.6 minutes for 100 mg/kg of the anesthetically active (-) isomer and the racemic form, but no increase for 100 mg/kg of the inactive (+) isomer. Since it has been shown that there is no difference in brain concentrations between the isomers, we conclude that the barbiturate protective effect is bound to the anesthetic effect. All mice convulsed, and since the non-anesthetized animals convulsed earlier and stronger than the anesthetized, it was possible that barbiturate protection was accounted for by its anticonvulsant effects. Diazepam 7.5 mg/kg, while reducing convulsions to the same degree as barbiturates without producing anesthesia, only increased survival time to 6.2 minutes. Thus, the barbiturate protective effect is distinct from the anticonvulsant effect. It seems to be bound to a stereospecific receptor for both protection and anesthesia.