The Effects of Anesthesia on the Mind and Body

For over 170 years, doctors have been using many different forms of anesthesia to make patients unconscious when it is necessary for surgery. Millions of Americans receive anesthesia every year, and it is now a very common part of surgery. While it is a very common practice, many people still wonder about the effects of anesthesia on the mind and body.  The truth is, all of the details of exactly how the process works is unknown, but more is being discovered about the effects of anesthesia on the mind and body with each new study.

In an article from Business Insider, Anesthesiologist Jill Fong explains how anesthesia interrupts the brain’s neural pathways so patients don’t feel pain during a procedure. She discusses how for anesthesia to work correctly, you need amnesia so the patient does not remember anything from the surgery and analgesia so the patient has pain relief. Depending on the type of surgery and the operating conditions, some patients may also be given muscle relaxers to keep their body relaxed, while others may be given medication to suppress excitatory neurons or enhance inhibitory neurons.

The article explains “Excitatory neurons, for example, get excited and send signals to other neurons to fire. Depressing them means less signals telling your brain you’re in pain. Inhibitory neurons do the opposite. They make it harder for neurons to generate these electrical signals. In either case this means fewer active neurons overall which is important because when your body is being poked and prodded, neurons would typically fire to tell your brain you’re in pain. If those neurons aren’t firing, your brain doesn’t know that your body is, well, being cut open.” The pathways and communication between your neural networks are interrupted, which leaves the body unconscious, and unable to feel or remember a surgery.

Identifying the effects of anesthesia on the mind and body is sometimes tough to determine, considering all of the advancements which have been made since its first use in 1846. Without the advancements in anesthesia, we would not have the advancements in surgery. Countless studies and immense research is helping us understand exactly how anesthesia works, and if necessary how it can be improved. For more information on anesthesia, visit our website at