General anesthetics abolish behavioral responsiveness in all animals, and in humans this is accompanied by loss of consciousness. Whether similar target mechanisms and behavioral endpoints exist across species remains controversial, although model organisms have been successfully used to study mechanisms of anesthesia. In Drosophila, a number of key mutants have been characterized as hypersensitive or resistant to general anesthetics by behavioral assays. In order to investigate general anesthesia in the Drosophila brain, local field potential (LFP) recordings were made during incremental exposures to isoflurane in wild-type and mutant flies. As in higher animals, general anesthesia in flies was found to involve a succession of distinct endpoints. At low doses, isoflurane uncoupled brain activity from ongoing movement, followed by a sudden attenuation in neural correlates of perception. Average LFP activity in the brain was more gradually attenuated with higher doses, followed by loss of movement behavior. Among mutants, a strong correspondence was found between behavioral and LFP sensitivities, thereby suggesting that LFP phenotypes are proximal to the anesthetic's mechanism of action. Finally, genetic and pharmacological analysis revealed that anesthetic sensitivities in the fly brain are, like other arousal states, influenced by dopaminergic activity. These results suggest that volatile anesthetics such as isoflurane may target the same processes that sustain wakefulness and attention in the brain. LFP correlates of general anesthesia in Drosophila provide a powerful new approach to uncovering the nature of these processes.
Copyright 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.