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Open Access Research article

Comparing the effects of isoflurane and pentobarbital on the responses of cutaneous mechanoreceptive afferents

Ju-Wen Cheng1, Alison I Weber2 and Sliman J Bensmaia2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital at Linkou, Taoyuan, Taiwan; Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

2 Department of Organismal Biology and Anatomy, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA

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BMC Anesthesiology 2013, 13:10  doi:10.1186/1471-2253-13-10

Published: 10 May 2013



While pentobarbital has been used extensively in neurophysiological experiments investigating activity in peripheral nerves, it has fallen out of favor as an anesthetic because of safety concerns and is often replaced with isoflurane. However, the effects of isoflurane on the excitability of mechanoreceptive afferents have yet to be conclusively elucidated.


To fill this gap, we collected extracellular single-unit recordings of cutaneous mechanoreceptive afferents from the sciatic nerve of 21 rats during vibratory stimulation of the hindpaw. We then compared the strength and temporal structure of the afferent response measured under pentobarbital and isoflurane anesthesia.


We found that the strength and temporal structure of afferent responses were statistically equivalent whether these were evoked under isoflurane or pentobarbital.


We conclude that, if these two anesthetics have any effect on the responses of mechanoreceptive afferents, their effects are indistinguishable.

Mechanoreceptive afferents; Anesthesia; Isoflurane; Pentobarbital; Vibration; Entrainment