Anesthetics interfere with the polarization of developing cortical neurons

Cyrus David Mintz, Sarah C. Smith, Kendall M.S. Barrett, Deanna L. Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Abstract: Numerous studies from the clinical and preclinical literature indicate that general anesthetic agents have toxic effects on the developing brain, but the mechanism of this toxicity is still unknown. Previous studies have focused on the effects of anesthetics on cell survival, dendrite elaboration, and synapse formation, but little attention has been paid to possible effects of anesthetics on the developing axon. Using dissociated mouse cortical neurons in culture, we found that isoflurane delays the acquisition of neuronal polarity by interfering with axon specification. The magnitude of this effect is dependent on isoflurane concentration and exposure time over clinically relevant ranges, and it is neither a precursor to nor the result of neuronal cell death. Propofol also seems to interfere with the acquisition of neuronal polarity, but the mechanism does not require activity at GABA A receptors. Rather, the delay in axon specification likely results from a slowing of the extension of prepolarized neurites. The effect is not unique to isoflurane as propofol also seems to interfere with the acquisition of neuronal polarity. These findings demonstrate that anesthetics may interfere with brain development through effects on axon growth and specification, thus introducing a new potential target in the search for mechanisms of pediatric anesthetic neurotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)368-375
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • anesthetic
  • axon
  • isoflurane
  • neuron
  • neurotoxicity
  • polarity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Anesthetics interfere with the polarization of developing cortical neurons'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this