Human and animal studies have elucidated the apparent neurodevelopmental effects resulting from neonatal anesthesia. Observations of learning and behavioral deficits in children, who were exposed to anesthesia early in development, have instigated a flurry of studies that have predominantly utilized animal models to further interrogate the mechanisms of neonatal anesthesia-induced neurotoxicity. Specifically, while neonatal anesthesia has demonstrated its propensity to affect multiple cell types in the brain, it has shown to have a particularly detrimental effect on the gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic system, which contributes to the observed learning and behavioral deficits. The damage to GABAergic neurons, resulting from neonatal anesthesia, seems to involve structure-specific changes in excitatory-inhibitory balance and neurovascular coupling, which manifest following a significant interval after neonatal anesthesia exposure. Thus, to better understand how neonatal anesthesia affects the GABAergic system, we first review the early development of the GABAergic system in various structures that have been the focus of neonatal anesthesia research. This is followed by an explanation that, due to the prolonged developmental curve of the GABAergic system, the entirety of the negative effects of neonatal anesthesia on learning and behavior in children are not immediately evident, but instead take a substantial amount of time (years) to fully develop. In order to address these concerns going forward, we subsequently offer a variety of in vivo methods which can be used to record these delayed effects.

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Gascoigne, Serdyukova, & Aksenov.
International journal of molecular sciences November 2021