The Dr. Carol Espy-Wilson STEM Scholarship Initiative in honor of Dr. Roderic I. Pettigrew ‘72

2016 Keynote Speaker for the 2nd Annual Breakfast to Support the Scholarship Fund

Dr. Emery N. Brown

Emery N. Brown is the Edward Hood Professor of Medical Engineering and Professor of Computational Neuroscience at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Warren M. Zapol Professor of Anaesthesia at Harvard Medical School; and an anesthesiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). Dr. Brown received his B.A (magna cum laude) in Applied Mathematics from Harvard College, his M.A. and Ph.D. in Statistics from Harvard University and his M.D. (magna cum laude) from Harvard Medical School. He completed his internship in internal medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and his residency in anesthesiology at MGH. He joined the faculty at Harvard Medical School in 1992 and at MIT in 2005. Dr. Brown is the only person to hold endowed professorships at both Harvard and MIT.

Dr. Brown is an anesthesiologist-statistician whose experimental research has made important contributions towards understanding the neuroscience of how anesthetics act in the brain to create the states of general anesthesia. His statistics research has developed signal processing algorithms to help understand how the brain represents and transmits information. 

Dr. Brown served on President Obama’s BRAIN Initiative Working Group, and is currently a member of the NSF Mathematics and Physical Sciences Advisory Committee, the Board of Directors of the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, the Board of Trustees of the International Anesthesia Research Society and the Scientific Advisory Committee for CURE Epilepsy.

Dr. Brown is the recipient of an NIH Director’s Pioneer Award, an NIH Director’s Transformative Research Award, the Jerome Sacks Award for Cross-Disciplinary Research from the National Institute of Statistical Science and the 2015 American Society of Anesthesiologists Excellence in Research Award. Dr. Brown is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Inventors, a 2015 Guggenheim Fellow in Applied Mathematics, a Fellow of the American Statistical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the IEEE. Brown is a member of the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He is the first African-American, the first statistician and the first anesthesiologist to be elected to all three branches of the National Academy. 

Deciphering the Dynamics of the Unconscious Brain Under General Anesthesia
General anesthesia is a drug-induced, reversible condition comprised of five behavioral states: unconsciousness, amnesia (loss of memory), analgesia (loss of pain sensation), akinesia (immobility), and hemodynamic stability with control of the stress response. The mechanisms by which anesthetics induce unconsciousness is simple.  These drugs create large, highly structured oscillations in key brain circuits that impair the ability of the brain regions to communicate. These oscillations are readily discernible in the EEG recorded from patients under general anesthesia and sedation. Our results show that it is now possible to develop a detailed neurophysiological understanding of the brain under general anesthesia, and that this understanding, can be used to monitor the anesthetic state more accurately and design more principled strategies for creating the state of general anesthesia.