The posterior dominant rhythm: an electroencephalographic biomarker for cognitive recovery after general anaesthesia

the ReCCognition Study Group, Michael S. Avidan, Ben Julian A. Palanca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background: The posterior dominant rhythm (PDR) was the first oscillatory pattern noted in the EEG. Evoked by wakeful eyelid closure, these oscillations dissipate over seconds during loss of arousal. The peak frequency of the PDR maintains stability over years, suggesting utility as a state biomarker in the surveillance of acute cognitive impairments. This EEG signature has not been systematically investigated for tracking cognitive dysfunction after anaesthetic-induced loss of consciousness. Methods: This substudy of Reconstructing Consciousness and Cognition (NCT01911195) investigated the PDR and cognitive function in 60 adult volunteers randomised to either 3 h of isoflurane general anaesthesia or resting wakefulness. Serial measurements of EEG power and cognitive task performance were assessed relative to pre-intervention baseline. Mixed-effects models allowed quantification of PDR and neurocognitive trajectories after return of responsiveness (ROR). Results: Individuals in the control group showed stability in the PDR peak frequency over several hours (median difference/inter-quartile range [IQR] of 0.02/0.20 Hz, P=0.39). After isoflurane general anaesthesia, the PDR peak frequency was initially reduced at ROR (median difference/IQR of 0.88/0.65 Hz, P<0.001). PDR peak frequency recovered at a rate of 0.20 Hz h−1. After ROR, the PDR peak frequency correlated with reaction time and accuracy on multiple cognitive tasks (P<0.001). Conclusion: The temporal trajectory of the PDR peak frequency could be a useful perioperative marker for tracking cognitive dysfunction on the order of hours after surgery, particularly for cognitive domains of working memory, visuomotor speed, and executive function. Clinical trial registration: NCT01911195.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e233-e242
JournalBritish journal of anaesthesia
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2023


  • alpha oscillations
  • anaesthesia
  • biomarker
  • cognitive function
  • electroencephalography
  • posterior dominant rhythm


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