Research in the News: Week of June 2

Research in the News: Week of June 2

New study calls into question a popular explanation for anesthesia

How does anesthesia work? The prevailing hypothesis holds that anesthesia renders patients unconscious by disrupting connections between different areas of the brain. Previous studies have supported this idea by demonstrating that anesthesia reduces information transfer between brain areas.

However, an international team of researchers now present an alternative explanation: reduced information transfer between brain areas may not necessarily arise from a breakdown in communication between areas, but rather a decrease in available information generated within brain areas. This hypothesis was supported by observations of brain activity in anesthetized ferrets, which suggested that anesthesia works by affecting connections between nerve cells within brain areas, and not between nerve cells connecting different brain areas.

Bystanders more likely to console socially similar victims

In the wake of a violent crime, very often a bystander will console the victim. In a new study, researchers decided to take a deeper look into consolation behavior after vicious attacks. They analyzed real-life closed-circuit TV footage of 249 individuals who were present in the immediate aftermath of 22 commercial robberies. The researchers investigated whether the social closeness (for example, age similarity or being employees of the same business) and gender of the victim and the bystander affected the likelihood of physical consolation behavior, such as a touch on the arm or a hug.

The researchers found that social closeness, rather than physical proximity, was important in determining if a bystander would console a victim, which is consistent with the theory that bystanders console victims when they empathize with them. The authors suggest that these patterns resemble previously observed post-aggression consolation behaviors in chimpanzees, indicating that both humans and chimpanzees may be motivated to console their peers out of empathy.

Citation: Wollstadt P, Sellers KK, Rudelt L, Priesemann V, Hutt A, FroÈhlich F, et al. (2017) Breakdown of local information processing may underlie isoflurane anesthesia effects. PLoS Comput Biol 13(6): e1005511.

Citation: Lindegaard MR, Liebst LS, Bernasco W, Heinskou MB, Philpot R, Levine M, et al. (2017) Consolation in the aftermath of robberies resembles post-aggression consolation in chimpanzees. PLoS ONE 12(5): e0177725.

Image Credit: Anaesthesia machine by Wellcome Library, London via Flickr


Jen is the Editorial Media Manager at PLOS. Before her time at PLOS, she's worked in broadcast news, radio and online media.

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