Modulation of Functional EEG Networks by the NMDA Antagonist Nitrous Oxide

Levin Kuhlmann, Brett L. Foster, David T.J. Liley

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Parietal networks are hypothesised to play a central role in the cortical information synthesis that supports conscious experience and behavior. Significant reductions in parietal level functional connectivity have been shown to occur during general anesthesia with propofol and a range of other GABAergic general anesthetic agents. Using two analysis approaches (1) a graph theoretic analysis based on surrogate-corrected zero-lag correlations of scalp EEG, and (2) a global coherence analysis based on the EEG cross-spectrum, we reveal that sedation with the NMDA receptor antagonist nitrous oxide (N2O), an agent that has quite different electroencephalographic effects compared to the inductive general anesthetics, also causes significant alterations in parietal level functional networks, as well as changes in full brain and frontal level networks. A total of 20 subjects underwent N2O inhalation at either 20%, 40% or 60% peak N2O/O2 gas concentration levels. N2O-induced reductions in parietal network level functional connectivity (on the order of 50%) were exclusively detected by utilising a surface Laplacian derivation, suggesting that superficial, smaller spatial scale, cortical networks were most affected. In contrast reductions in frontal network functional connectivity were optimally discriminated using a common-reference derivation (reductions on the order of 10%), indicating that the NMDA antagonist N2O induces spatially coherent and widespread perturbations in frontal activity. Our findings not only give important weight to the idea of agent invariant final network changes underlying drug-induced reductions in consciousness, but also provide significant impetus for the application and development of multiscale functional analyses to systematically characterise the network level cortical effects of NMDA receptor related hypofunction. Future work at the source space level will be needed to verify the consistency between cortical network changes seen at the source level and those presented here at the EEG sensor space level.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56434
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2013

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