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Papers of the Week

Papers: 5 Nov 2022 - 11 Nov 2022

Human Studies

2022 Sep

PNAS Nexus



An electroencephalogram biomarker of fentanyl drug effects.


Balanza GA, Bharadwaj KM, Mullen AC, Beck AM, Work EC, McGovern FJ, Houle TT, Eric PT, Purdon PL
PNAS Nexus. 2022 Sep; 1(4):pgac158.
PMID: 36329725.


Opioid drugs influence multiple brain circuits in parallel to produce analgesia as well as side effects, including respiratory depression. At present, we do not have real-time clinical biomarkers of these brain effects. Here, we describe the results of an experiment to characterize the electroencephalographic signatures of fentanyl in humans. We find that increasing concentrations of fentanyl induce a frontal theta band (4 to 8 Hz) signature distinct from slow-delta oscillations related to sleep and sedation. We also report that respiratory depression, quantified by decline in an index of instantaneous minute ventilation, occurs at ≈1700-fold lower concentrations than those that produce sedation as measured by reaction time. The electroencephalogram biomarker we describe could facilitate real-time monitoring of opioid drug effects and enable more precise and personalized opioid administration.