δ-Oscillation Correlates of Anesthesia-induced Unconsciousness in Large-scale Brain Networks of Human Infants.


BACKGROUND: Functional brain connectivity studies can provide important information about changes in brain-state dynamics during general anesthesia. In adults, γ-aminobutyric acid-mediated agents disrupt integration of information from local to the whole-brain scale. Beginning around 3 to 4 months postnatal age, γ-aminobutyric acid-mediated anesthetics such as sevoflurane generate α-electroencephalography oscillations. In previous studies of sevoflurane-anesthetized infants 0 to 3.9 months of age, α-oscillations were absent, and power spectra did not distinguish between anesthetized and emergence from anesthesia conditions. Few studies detailing functional connectivity during general anesthesia in infants exist. This study's aim was to identify changes in functional connectivity of the infant brain during anesthesia. METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was performed using multichannel electroencephalograph recordings of 20 infants aged 0 to 3.9 months old who underwent sevoflurane anesthesia for elective surgery. Whole-brain functional connectivity was evaluated during maintenance of a surgical state of anesthesia and during emergence from anesthesia. Functional connectivity was represented as networks, and network efficiency indices (including complexity and modularity) were computed at the sensor and source levels. RESULTS: Sevoflurane decreased functional connectivity at the δ-frequency (1 to 4 Hz) in infants 0 to 3.9 months old when comparing anesthesia with emergence. At the sensor level, complexity decreased during anesthesia, showing less whole-brain integration with prominent alterations in the connectivity of frontal and parietal sensors (median difference, 0.0293; 95% CI, -0.0016 to 0.0397). At the source level, similar results were observed (median difference, 0.0201; 95% CI, -0.0025 to 0.0482) with prominent alterations in the connectivity between default-mode and frontoparietal regions. Anesthesia resulted in fragmented modules as modularity increased at the sensor (median difference, 0.0562; 95% CI, 0.0048 to 0.1298) and source (median difference, 0.0548; 95% CI, -0.0040 to 0.1074) levels. CONCLUSIONS: Sevoflurane is associated with decreased capacity for efficient information transfer in the infant brain. Such findings strengthen the hypothesis that conscious processing relies on an efficient system of integrated information transfer across the whole brain.