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Emery N. Brown, M.D., Ph.D.

AIMBE College of Fellows Class of 2006
For the application of sophisticated statistical analysis and modeling techniques to elucidate neurophysiological processes and mechanisms.

Making New Waves In Anesthesia

Via TEDMED | August 6, 2015

Emery Brown, anesthesiologist, Professor of Computational Neuroscience at MIT, and Co-Director of the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, unveiled the surprising truth about exactly what happens to your brain under anesthesia and what it suggests for understanding the brain and improving treatment.

“Anesthesia works primarily through the production of oscillations that disrupt the way regions in the brain communicate.” Emery Brown at TEDMED 2014

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

When I had the honor to be invited, I realized that it would be a great opportunity to educate the public on general anesthesia and other practices in anesthesiology. The state of general anesthesia is viewed as a blackbox process by the field of anesthesiology, other fields of medicine and the general public. I was motivated by the importance of bringing an informed, modern perspective on general anesthesia to the lay public, the medical field, neuroscientists and anesthesiologists.

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New Way to Monitor Induced-coma Patients

Via MIT Library News | November 14, 2013

Brain injury patients are sometimes deliberately placed in a coma with anesthesia drugs to allow swelling to go down and their brains to heal. Comas can last for days, during which patients’ brain activity must be regularly monitored to ensure the right level of sedation. The constant checking is “totally inefficient,” says Emery Brown, an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and a professor in MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Brown and his colleagues at MGH have developed a “brain-machine interface” that automatically monitors brain activity and adjusts drug dosages accordingly. They’ve tested the system on rats and are now planning human trials.

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How the Brain Loses and Regains Consciousness

Via MIT News | May 4, 2013

Study reveals brain patterns produced by a general anesthesia drug; work could help doctors better monitor patients.

Since the mid-1800s, doctors have used drugs to induce general anesthesia in patients undergoing surgery. Despite their widespread use, little is known about how these drugs create such a profound loss of consciousness.

In a new study that tracked brain activity in human volunteers over a two-hour period as they lost and regained consciousness, researchers from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have identified distinctive brain patterns associated with different stages of general anesthesia. The findings shed light on how one commonly used anesthesia drug exerts its effects, and could help doctors better monitor patients during surgery and prevent rare cases of patients waking up during operations.

Anesthesiologists now rely on a monitoring system that takes electroencephalogram (EEG) information and combines it into a single number between zero and 100. However, that index actually obscures the information that would be most useful, according to the authors of the new study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of March 4.

“When anesthesiologists are taking care of someone in the operating room, they can use the information in this article to make sure that someone is unconscious, and they can have a specific idea of when the person may be regaining consciousness,” says senior author Emery Brown, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and health sciences and technology and an anesthesiologist at MGH.

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Four MIT Researchers Attend White House Announcement of Brain Initiative

Via MIT News | April 2, 2013

Obama invites Boyden, Brown, Desimone and Seung to launch of new federal initiative.

Four MIT neuroscientists were among those invited to the White House on Tuesday, April 2, when President Barack Obama announced a new initiative to understand the human brain.

Professors Ed Boyden, Emery Brown, Robert Desimone and Sebastian Seung were among a group of leading researchers who joined Obama for the announcement, along with Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and representatives of federal and private funders of neuroscience research.

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Four from MIT Win NIH Grants

Via MIT News | September 13, 2012

Brown, Gore, Ploegh and Zhang receive grants for innovative biomedical research.

Four MIT faculty members have been awarded National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants designed to promote innovative biomedical research.

The Institute’s recipients of these new NIH grants are Hidde Ploegh, professor of biology and member of the Whitehead Institute; Feng Zhang, assistant professor of brain and cognitive sciences and member of the McGovern Institute; Jeff Gore, assistant professor of physics; and Emery Brown, professor of brain and cognitive sciences.

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Neuroscientists Link Brain-wave Pattern to Energy Consumption

Via MIT News | February 8, 2012

New model of neuro-electric activity could help scientists better understand quiescent brain states such as coma.

Different brain states produce different waves of electrical activity, with the alert brain, relaxed brain and sleeping brain producing easily distinguishable electroencephalogram (EEG) patterns. These patterns change even more dramatically when the brain goes into certain deeply quiescent states during general anesthesia or a coma.

MIT and Harvard University researchers have now figured out how one such quiescent state, known as burst suppression, arises. The finding, reported in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Feb. 6, could help researchers better monitor other states in which burst suppression occurs. For example, it is also seen in the brains of heart attack victims who are cooled to prevent brain damage due to oxygen deprivation, and in the brains of patients deliberately placed into a medical coma to treat a traumatic brain injury or intractable seizures.

During burst suppression, the brain is quiet for up to several seconds at a time, punctuated by short bursts of activity. Emery Brown, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and health sciences and technology and an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, set out to study burst suppression in the anesthetized brain and other brain states in hopes of discovering a fundamental mechanism for how the pattern arises. Such knowledge could help scientists figure out how much burst suppression is needed for optimal brain protection during induced hypothermia, when this state is created deliberately.

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How to Reverse General Anesthesia

Via MIT News | September 22, 2011

When patients awaken from surgery, they’re usually groggy and disoriented; it can take hours for a patient to become fully clearheaded again. Emery Brown, an MIT neuroscientist and an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), thinks it doesn’t have to be that way.

Brown and colleagues at MGH are studying the effects of stimulants that could be used to bring patients out of general anesthesia much faster. One potential candidate is Ritalin, the drug commonly used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In a study published online Sept. 20 in the journal Anesthesiology, the researchers show that giving anesthetized rats an injection of Ritalin brings them out of anesthesia almost immediately.

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Emery N. Brown, MD, PhD Receives the 2011 Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research

Via National Institute of Statistical Sciences | August 10, 2011

The National Institute of Statistical Sciences (NISS) has presented the 2011 Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research to Dr. Emery N. Brown of MIT and Harvard. Susan Ellenberg, chair of the Board of Trustees, announced the award at the 2011 Joint Statistical Meetings in Miami, Florida. The annual award, named in honor of Jerome (Jerry) Sacks, the founding director of NISS, was established in 2000 to recognize “sustained, high-quality cross-disciplinary research involving the statistical sciences.”

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Call It a Reversible Coma, Not Sleep

Via New York Times | February 28, 2011

Dr. Emery Neal Brown, 54,  is a professor of anesthesiology at Harvard Medical School, a professor of computational neuroscience at M.I.T. and  a practicing physician, seeing patients at Massachusetts General Hospital. Between all that, he heads a laboratory seeking to unravel one of medicine’s big questions: how anesthesia works.

We spoke for three hours last month at his Massachusetts General office and more recently by telephone. An edited version of the two interviews follows.

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Understanding the Anesthetized Brain

Via MIT News | January 3, 2011

Neuroscientist Emery Brown hopes to shed light on a longstanding medical mystery: how general anesthesia works.

Since 1846, when a Boston dentist named William Morton gave the first public demonstration of general anesthesia using ether, scientists and doctors have tried to figure out what happens to the brain during general anesthesia.

Though much has been learned since then, many aspects of general anesthesia remain a mystery. How do anesthetic drugs interfere with neurons and brain chemicals to produce the profound loss of consciousness and lack of pain typical of general anesthesia? And, how does general anesthesia differ from sleep or coma?

Emery Brown, an MIT neuroscientist and practicing anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, wants to answer those questions by bringing the rigorous approach of neuroscience to the study of general anesthesia. In a review article published online Dec. 29 in the New England Journal of Medicine, he and two colleagues lay out a new framework for studying general anesthesia by relating it to what is already known about sleep and coma.

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