Since the introduction of general anaesthetics into clinical practice, researchers have been mystified as to how these chemically disparate drugs act to produce their dramatic effects on central nervous system function and behaviour. Scientific advances, particularly during the last 25 years, have now begun to reveal the molecular mechanisms underpinning their behavioural effects. For certain i.v. general anaesthetics, such as etomidate and propofol, a persuasive case can now be made that the GABAA receptor, a major inhibitory receptor in the mammalian central nervous system, is an important target. Advances in molecular pharmacology and in genetic manipulation of rodent genes reveal that different subtypes of the GABAA receptor are responsible for mediating particular aspects of the anaesthetic behavioural repertoire. Such studies provide a better understanding of the neuronal circuitry involved in the various anaesthetic-induced behaviours and, in the future, may result in the development of novel therapeutics with a reduced propensity for side-effects.
- Anaesthetics i.v.
- GABAA receptors
- Intravenous general anaesthetics