The effects of propofol ]on local field potential spectra, action potential firing rate, and their temporal relationship in humans and felines

Sara J. Hanrahan, Bradley Greger, Rebecca A. Parker, Takahiro Ogura, Shinju Obara, Talmage D. Egan, Paul A. House

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Propofol is an intravenous sedative hypnotic, which, acting as a GABAA agonist, results in neocortical inhibition. While propofol has been well studied at the molecular and clinical level, less is known about the effects of propofol at the level of individual neurons and local neocortical networks. We used Utah Electrode Arrays (UEAs) to investigate the effects of propofol anesthesia on action potentials (APs) and local field potentials (LFPs). UEAs were implanted into the neocortex of two humans and three felines. The two human patients and one feline received propofol by bolus injection, while the other two felines received target-controlled infusions. We examined the changes in LFP power spectra and AP firing at different levels of anesthesia. Increased propofol concentration correlated with decreased high-frequency power in LFP spectra and decreased AP firing rates, and the generation of large-amplitude spike-like LFP activity; however, the temporal relationship between APs and LFPs remained relatively consistent at all levels of propofol. The probability that an AP would fire at this local minimum of the LFP increased with propofol administration. The propofol-induced suppression of neocortical network activity allowed LFPs to be dominated by low-frequency spike-like activity, and correlated with sedation and unconsciousness. As the low-frequency spike-like activity increased and the AP-LFP relationship became more predictable firing rate encoding capacity is impaired. This suggests a mechanism for decreased information processing in the neocortex that accounts for propofol-induced unconsciousness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-26
Number of pages26
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberMAR
StatePublished - Mar 26 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Consciousness
  • Local field potential
  • Microelectrode array
  • Power spectrum
  • Propofol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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