Volatile anesthetics serve as useful probes of a conserved biological process that is essential to the proper functioning of the central nervous system. A kinetic and thermodynamic analysis of their unusual pharmacological and physiological characteristics has led to a general, predictive theory in which small molecules that adsorb to membranes modulate ion channel function by altering physical properties of membrane bilayers. A kinetic model that is both parsimonious and falsifiable has been developed to test this mechanism. This theory leads to predictions about the structure, function, origin, and evolution of synapses, the etiology of several diseases and disease symptoms affecting the brain, and the mechanism of action of several drugs that are used therapeutically. Neuronal membranes may offer an appealing drug target, given the large number of compounds that adsorb to interfaces and hence membranes.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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