|Scientist profiles M-R|
Sunnybrook Research Institute
University of Toronto
1 King’s College Circle, Room 3318
- MD, Queen’s University, Canada
- PhD, anesthesia, University of Toronto, Canada
Appointments and Affiliations:
- Affiliate scientist, biological sciences, Brain Sciences Research Program, Sunnybrook Research Institute
- Professor, departments of physiology and anesthesia, University of Toronto
- Canada Research Chair in Anaesthesia, Tier 2
- Mechanisms of anesthetic
- GABAA receptor physiology
Dr. Orser's scientific research is driven by the fundamental question: how do general anesthetics work?
Her long-term aim is to identify molecular targets for anesthetics and understand how changes in receptor function underlie the behavioural effects of these drugs. Such studies are essential for the development of new anesthetics with improved side effect profiles and the optimum use of available anesthetics.
Her studies also offer insights into the neuronal substrates that underlie pain, memory and consciousness. Her laboratory was the first to demonstrate the exquisite sensitivity of a population of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors to volatile and inhaled anesthetics. Behavioural studies using preclinical models showed the actions of anesthetics at extrasynaptic GABAA receptors in the hippocampus contribute to the amnestic properties of the drugs. The findings challenged the prevailing dogma that anesthetics act by increasing inhibitory synaptic transmission. The results have stimulated new areas of anesthetic research in laboratories around the world. In addition, her laboratory was the first to demonstrate the ability of anesthetics to reduce desensitization of these inhibitory receptors. This unique action of anesthetics may contribute to the profound neurodepressive properties of these drugs.
Dr. Orser's clinical research focuses on ways to improve medication safety in the operating room. She co-founded the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada, the first Canadian reporting system for medication errors. She also established the patient safety committee for the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society and chaired the Canadian Standards Association subcommittee on the labeling and packaging of drugs.
Her scientific discoveries have been recognized by several awards, including a Canada Research Chair in Anaesthesia and the first Frontiers in Anesthesia Award from the International Anesthesia Society. She was also the recipient of a Recognition Award from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices in the U.S., a Premier's Research Excellence Award and a Career Scientist Award from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Related News and Stories:
- Post-surgery memory loss may be reversible (September 20, 2012)
- Study suggests remembering surgery might be real in rare cases (June 25, 2007)