Methods: Forty-seven healthy participants were randomized to receive dexmedetomidine (n = 23) or propofol (n = 24) as target-controlled infusions until loss of responsiveness. Then, an attempt was made to arouse the participant to regain responsiveness while keeping the drug infusion constant. Finally, the concentration was increased 1.5-fold to achieve presumable loss of consciousness. We conducted statistical comparisons between the drugs and different states of consciousness for spectral bandwidths, and observed how drug-induced electroencephalogram patterns reversed upon awakening. Cross-frequency coupling was also analyzed between slow-wave phase and alpha power.
Results: Eighteen (78%) and 10 (42%) subjects were arousable during the constant drug infusion in the dexmedetomidine and propofol groups, respectively (P = 0.011 between the drugs). Corresponding with deepening anesthetic level, slow-wave power increased, and a state-dependent alpha anteriorization was detected with both drugs, especially with propofol. The slow-wave and frontal alpha activities were momentarily disrupted as the subjects regained responsiveness at awakening. Negative phase-amplitude coupling before and during loss of responsiveness frontally and positive coupling during the highest drug concentration posteriorly were observed in the propofol but not in the dexmedetomidine group.
Conclusions: Electroencephalogram effects of dexmedetomidine and propofol are strongly drug- and state-dependent. Changes in slow-wave and alpha activity seemed to best detect different states of consciousness.