Among the earliest proposals to explain the mechanism of action of anesthetics is the concept that they interact physically rather than chemically with lipophilic membrane components to cause neuronal failure. However, this concept proposes that all anesthetics interact in a common way (the unitary theory of anesthesia), and it is being challenged by more recent work demonstrating that specific anesthetics exhibit selective and distinct interactions with neuronal processes and that those interactions are not easily explained by a common physical association with membrane components. Proposals for the production of anesthesia are described next.
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