By tracking brain activity through electroencephalography, or EEG, software may be able to maintain a patient in a medically induced coma more safely than a human expert can.
Anesthesiologists use EEG to monitor a patient’s level of sedation through sensors placed on the scalp. When a patient is deeply sedated in a medical coma—a technique sometimes used to reduce brain swelling after a traumatic injury or to treat uncontrolled seizures—a nurse or doctor must currently monitor the patient’s brain activity and adjust the rate of anesthetic delivery around the clock, sometimes for days.
Emery Brown, an MIT neuroscientist and an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, thinks the computer-controlled anesthetic system he has developed could do a better job. In a study published on Thursday in PLoS Computational Biology, Brown and colleagues demonstrate the technology in rats as a step toward developing it for human patients.