Original Article

Neuropsychopharmacology (2014) 39, 2275–2287; doi:10.1038/npp.2014.134; published online 2 July 2014

Effect of General Anesthesia in Infancy on Long-Term Recognition Memory in Humans and Rats

Greg Stratmann1, Joshua Lee2, Jeffrey W Sall1, Bradley H Lee1, Rehan S Alvi1, Jennifer Shih1, Allison M Rowe1, Tatiana M Ramage1, Flora L Chang1, Terri G Alexander1, David K Lempert1, Nan Lin1, Kasey H Siu1, Sophie A Elphick1, Alice Wong1, Caitlin I Schnair1, Alexander F Vu1, John T Chan1, Huizhen Zai1, Michelle K Wong1, Amanda M Anthony1, Kyle C Barbour1, Dana Ben-Tzur1, Natalie E Kazarian1, Joyce YY Lee1, Jay R Shen1, Eric Liu1, Gurbir S Behniwal1, Cathy R Lammers3, Zoel Quinones3, Anuj Aggarwal1, Elizabeth Cedars1, Andrew P Yonelinas4 and Simona Ghetti5

  1. 1Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA
  2. 2Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
  3. 3Department of Anesthesia and Pain Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
  4. 4Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA
  5. 5Department of Psychology, Center for Mind and Brain, University of California, Davis, CA, USA

Correspondence: Dr G Stratmann, Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Care, Group Anesthesia Services, University of California San Francisco, 718 University Avenue, Suite #211, Los Gatos, San Francisco, CA 95032, USA, Tel: +1 (619) 850-7549, Fax +1 (408) 354-0633, E-mail: gstratmann@gmail.com

Received 5 February 2014; Revised 9 April 2014; Accepted 2 June 2014
Accepted article preview online 9 June 2014; Advance online publication 2 July 2014

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Abstract

Anesthesia in infancy impairs performance in recognition memory tasks in mammalian animals, but it is unknown if this occurs in humans. Successful recognition can be based on stimulus familiarity or recollection of event details. Several brain structures involved in recollection are affected by anesthesia-induced neurodegeneration in animals. Therefore, we hypothesized that anesthesia in infancy impairs recollection later in life in humans and rats. Twenty eight children ages 6–11 who had undergone a procedure requiring general anesthesia before age 1 were compared with 28 age- and gender-matched children who had not undergone anesthesia. Recollection and familiarity were assessed in an object recognition memory test using receiver operator characteristic analysis. In addition, IQ and Child Behavior Checklist scores were assessed. In parallel, thirty three 7-day-old rats were randomized to receive anesthesia or sham anesthesia. Over 10 months, recollection and familiarity were assessed using an odor recognition test. We found that anesthetized children had significantly lower recollection scores and were impaired at recollecting associative information compared with controls. Familiarity, IQ, and Child Behavior Checklist scores were not different between groups. In rats, anesthetized subjects had significantly lower recollection scores than controls while familiarity was unaffected. Rats that had undergone tissue injury during anesthesia had similar recollection indices as rats that had been anesthetized without tissue injury. These findings suggest that general anesthesia in infancy impairs recollection later in life in humans and rats. In rats, this effect is independent of underlying disease or tissue injury.

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