Anesthesia is such a common part of modern medicine that it may surprise you to know that scientists don’t exactly know how it works.
There are three types of anesthesia: general, where you are totally unconscious; local, where just a certain part of your body is numbed; and twilight sedation, a state where you’re conscious, but won’t form any memories. Most are the result of two drugs that knock you out and keep you unconscious—and there are a whole lot of different anesthetic chemicals available to doctors. Most of them are oil soluble, and scientists think they might bind to proteins in the brain. However, researchers aren’t quite sure how exactly these chemical molecules work in the brain to knock you out and keep you from feeling pain.
Watch the video above to learn more about what we do know about the neuroscience of being knocked out. And if you’re looking for a fun fact to pull out at dinner parties, chew on this: one study found that redheads need some 19 percent more anesthetic than people with dark hair to get the same effects.
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