Research Interests: Anesthesiology and Neuroscience
Research Focus: I study the mechanisms of emergence and cognitive recovery from general anesthesia using a systems neuroscience approach. In current clinical practice, emergence from general anesthesia is treated as a passive process dictated by the pharmacokinetics of anesthetic drug clearance. My group discovered that methylphenidate (Ritalin) and dopamine agonists induce active emergence from general anesthesia, a process that we term "reanimation." We subsequently discovered that optogenetic stimulation of dopamine neurons in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) also induces reanimation.
I currently direct a translational research program that studies the role of arousal pathways in restoring consciousness and cognition after general anesthesia. In my laboratory, we combine optogenetics, chemogenetics, neurophysiological recordings, and touchscreen-based cognitive testing in rodents to elucidate the neural circuits that govern reanimation, while my clinical research program tests novel methods to accelerate recovery of consciousness and cognition in surgical patients. I am currently funded by the NIH (R01-GM104948, P01-GM118269) and the James S. McDonnell Foundation Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition. Our long-term goal is to make general anesthesia safer by developing new therapeutic options for common clinical problems such as delayed emergence from general anesthesia, post-operative delirium, and cognitive dysfunction.