Department Faculty


Ben Palanca, MD, PhD

Research Interests

Dr. Palanca is interested in characterizing the mechanisms whereby anesthetic agents alter intracortical and subcortical neural networks and impair cognitive processes to generate unconsciousness. The question of how anesthetic agents induce reversible states of unconsciousness is of central importance in the science of anesthesiology. The answers to this question have obvious importance for understanding the neural circuitry underlying cognitive function and developing safer and better approaches to administering and monitoring general anesthesia.

In 2010, Dr. Palanca was awarded a two year Mentored Research Training Grant from the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) to investigate the neural correlates of anesthetic-induced unconsciousness in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG) signals. This project combines his background in primate neurophysiology and clinical anesthesiology with training in EEG and fMRI toward the conduct of translational research studies involving anesthetized human volunteers. He will assess the states of cortical connectivity at anesthetic gas concentrations flanking the important point of loss of responsiveness. As different brain monitors designed for preventing unintended return of consciousness function via analysis of either spontaneous or evoked neural activity, he will assess cortical connectivity both in the context of a resting state and in the context of individuals performing a task. This project should clarify the relationships among networks of critical cortical and subcortical areas, impairment of cognitive functions induced by anesthetics, and surface electrical activity.