Repeated anesthesia can affect childrens ability to learn

Mar 08, 2010

There is a link between repeated anaesthesia in children and memory impairment, though physical activity can help to form new cells that improve memory, reveals new research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The study has been published in the Journal of & Metabolism.

"Paediatric anaesthetists have long suspected that children who are anaesthetised repeatedly over the course of just a few years may suffer from impaired memory and learning," says Klas Blomgren, professor at the Queen Silvia Children's Hospital and researcher at the Sahlgrenska Academy. "This is a theory that is also supported by foreign research."

His research team discovered, by chance, a link between stem cell loss and repeated anaesthesia when working on another study. They wanted to find out what happens to the brain's stem cells when exposed to strong magnetic fields, for example during an MRI scan. The study was carried out using rats and mice, and showed that while the magnetic fields did not have any tangible effects on the animals, the repeated anaesthesia did.

"We found that repeated anaesthesia wiped out a large portion of the stem cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is important for memory," says Blomgren. "The stem cells in the hippocampus can form new nerve and glial cells, and the formation of nerve cells is considered important for our memory function."

Their results could also be linked to impaired memory in animals as they got older. The effect was evident only in young rats or mice that had been anaesthetised, not when adult animals were anaesthetised. This may be because stem cells are more sensitive in an immature brain, even though there are fewer of them as we get older.

"Despite extensive attempts, we have not been able to understand exactly what happens when the stem cells are wiped out," says Blomgren. "We couldn't see any signs of increased cell death, but are speculating that the stem cells lose their ability to divide."

Another treatment that wipes out the brain's stem cells is radiotherapy, which is used with cancer patients. Blomgren and his research team have previously used animal studies to show that after radiotherapy can result in a greater number of new stem cells and partly replace those that have been lost.

"What's more, the new nerve cells seem to work better in animals that exercise. Now that we know this, we can come up with treatments that prevent or reverse the loss of ostem cells after repeated anaesthesia," says Blomgren, who believes that the findings will lead to greater awareness of the problems and inspire further research into the reasons for the loss of .

is the use of anaesthetics, which are administered to patients by inhalation and/or injection before a surgical procedure. Patients then fall asleep, relax their muscles and feel no pain whatsoever. Often a combination of several different drugs is given via a cannula. These take around 15-20 seconds to work, depending on when the anaesthetic reaches the brain.

Explore further: Biomedical engineer looks at new applications for novel lupus drug

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Stem cell activity deciphered in the aging brain

Dec 18, 2006

Neurobiologists have discovered why the aging brain produces progressively fewer new nerve cells in its learning and memory center. The scientists said the finding, made in rodents, refutes current ideas on how long crucial ...

New discovery about the formation of new brain cells

Nov 23, 2009

The generation of new nerve cells in the brain is regulated by a peptide known as C3a, which directly affects the stem cells' maturation into nerve cells and is also important for the migration of new nerve cells through ...

Stem cells are good for the brain

Jul 15, 2008

For some years, scientists have been speculating over why stem cells exist in the brain, as brain regeneration is limited. A German team of neuroscientists believe these stem cells help keep the brain healthy and active.

Recommended for you

Immune response may cause harm in brain injuries, disorders

1 hour ago

Could the body's own immune system play a role in memory impairment and cognitive dysfunction associated with conditions like chronic epilepsy, Alzheimer's dementia and concussions? Cleveland Clinic researchers believe so, ...

One route to malaria drug resistance found

4 hours ago

Researchers have uncovered a way the malaria parasite becomes resistant to an investigational drug. The discovery, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, also is relevant for other infectious ...

Protein therapy successful in treating injured lung cells

5 hours ago

Cardiovascular researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have successfully used a protein known as MG53 to treat acute and chronic lung cell injury. Additionally, application of this protein proved to ...

User comments : 0