07/07/2015 08:57 BST | Updated 07/07/2015 08:59 BST

Scientists Discover Laughing Gas Is Far Stronger Than First Thought Following Student Death

Scientists have discovered have discovered a rather dramatic side to nitrous oxide, otherwise known as laughing gas.

When studying electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings, they found that it instigates a 'powerful pattern of electrical firing that sweeps across the front of the brain once every 10 seconds.'


MIT researchers say that while this frequency is 'characteristic of deep sleep' the waves itself are larger and more powerful -- a feature that has never been seen before.

Emery Brown, a professor of medical engineering at MIT described the moment, saying:

"We literally watched it and marvelled, because it was totally unexpected.

"Nitrous oxide has control over the brain in ways no other drug does.”

Their findings follow the death of a 22-year-old student from Brighton University who asphyxiated after inhaling too much nitrous oxide.

Aaron Dunford, who died in March used to suffer from chronic pain that doctors linked to his use of laughing gas.

At the time, the founder of the Global Drug Survey, Dr Adam Winstock told The Independent, that the public needed more education on the negative effects of the drug.

MIT's study of nitrous oxide began in 2012. Brown took EEG readings from all his anaesthesiology patients, placing six sticker electrodes on each person's forehead to measure voltage activity.

According to MIT, laughing gas is routinely used towards the end of a surgery in order to maintain a patient's unconsciousness as the ether anaesthetics wear off.

Brown proposes that if anaesthesiologists could find a way to make these waves last longer, it could become a 'potent anesthetic from which rapid recovery would be possible.'


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