Despite extensive knowledge of its molecular and cellular effects, how anesthesia affects sensory processing remains poorly understood. In particular, it remains unclear whether anesthesia modestly or robustly degrades activity in primary sensory regions, and whether such changes are linked to anesthesia drug concentration versus behavioral unresponsiveness, which are typically confounded. Here, we used slow gradual intravenous propofol anesthesia induction together with auditory stimulation and intermittent assessment of behavioral responsiveness while recording epidural electroencephalogram, and neuronal spiking activity in primary auditory cortex (PAC) of eight rats. We found that all main components of neuronal activity including spontaneous firing rates, onset response magnitudes, onset response latencies, postonset neuronal silence duration, late-locking to 40 Hz click-trains, and offset responses, gradually changed in a dose-dependent manner with increasing anesthesia levels without showing abrupt shifts around loss of righting reflex or other time-points. Thus, the dominant factor affecting PAC responses is the anesthesia drug concentration rather than any sudden, dichotomous behavioral state changes. Our findings explain a wide array of seemingly conflicting results in the literature that, depending on the precise definition of wakefulness (vigilant vs. drowsy) and anesthesia (light vs. deep/surgical), report a spectrum of effects in primary regions ranging from minimal to dramatic differences.
- 40 Hz click train