Can ketamine temporarily shut down the brain?

Credit: Unsplash+

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have conducted an intriguing study using sheep to better understand how ketamine, a drug known for its anesthetic and pain-relieving properties, affects the brain.

The findings, led by Professor Jenny Morton and published in Scientific Reports, offer insights into the unusual brain phenomena associated with ketamine that might explain some of its notorious side-effects, such as out-of-body experiences and states of oblivion.

Ketamine has been used primarily in medical settings for anesthesia and acute pain relief, particularly in challenging environments like battlefields or accident scenes.

However, its potential as a treatment for depression and PTSD has recently garnered attention, despite limited knowledge about its broader effects on brain function.

In the study, the team utilized electroencephalography (EEG), a method of measuring electrical activity in the brain, to observe changes in brain waves of sedated sheep immediately after ketamine was administered.

They noted that low-frequency activity was predominant while the sheep were under the influence of the drug.

Interestingly, as the effects of ketamine wore off and the sheep began to regain consciousness, their brain activity exhibited a switch between high and low-frequency oscillations. This pattern of fluctuating brain waves was initially irregular but stabilized within minutes.

The periods when these unusual brain activities occurred aligned with the times human users report feeling disconnected from their bodies, suggesting a possible explanation for the dissociative effects associated with ketamine use.

The researchers believe that the oscillations in brain activity could disrupt normal processing of external information, leading to the profound and often surreal experiences reported by users.

This study was part of broader research into Huntington’s disease, a neurodegenerative disorder, as sheep are considered a viable model for studying human nervous system disorders.

Understanding how different drugs affect those with the genetic markers for Huntington’s could inform patient treatment plans and drug efficacy.

The research also explored responses to different dosages of ketamine. When administered a higher dose, typical of anesthetic ranges, the sheep’s brain activity showed a complete pause within two minutes, lasting several minutes in one case.

This startling observation mirrors what is known in recreational circles as the ‘K-hole,’ a state of detachment akin to a near-death experience followed by tranquility, described by some ketamine users.

High doses of ketamine, however, carry significant risks, including potential liver damage, heart failure, and fatal outcomes, especially given the tendency for users to increase doses over time to achieve the same effect.

Such findings underscore the critical need for controlled usage and further research into the drug’s impact on the brain.

By studying ketamine’s effects on sheep, researchers hope to pave the way for safer clinical applications and a deeper understanding of how it influences brain function.

This could lead to more informed uses of ketamine in treating mental health disorders, providing relief for conditions like depression and PTSD under carefully managed conditions.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and cranberries could help boost memory.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about heartburn drugs that could increase risk of dementia, and results showing this MIND diet may protect your cognitive function, prevent dementia.

Copyright © 2024 Knowridge Science Report. All rights reserved.