Bev Orser

Neuroscience Platform


University of Toronto, Department of Physiology, 1 King's College Circle, Medical Sciences Building, Room 3318 , Toronto, Ontario Canada M5S 1A8
Research Interests
Effects of anaesthetics on ligand-gated ion channels, second messenger systems, electrophysiology, clinical studies of anaesthetics.
Fellows, Graduates, Summer Students

Research Synopsis

Keywords: Memory, pain, anesthesia, GABA, inhibition. 

Detailed Description:
Over 234 million surgical operations are performed worldwide each year. General anesthetics have dramatically reduced human suffering, but the mechanisms of action of these drugs remain poorly understood. The goal of Dr. Orser’s studies is to develop an understanding of the molecular basis of general anesthesia. Her laboratory is best known for identifying a novel population of inhibitory receptors in the hippocampus that underlie the memory-blocking properties of commonly used neurodepressive drugs. Her studies also showed that up- and down-regulation of these receptors impairs and improves memory function, respectively. In addition, her team identified inhibitory receptors in spinal neurons that are novel targets for analgesics.


Cell and tissue culture: Brain slice, endothelial cells, hippocampal cells, neurons.Procedures: Behavioral tests, EEG, electrophysiology, HPLC, glucose clamp, immunohistochemistry, in-vivo electrophysiology, mass spectrometry, patch clamp, psychophysical sensory testing, qRT-PCR, RT-PCR, signal transduction characterization, voltage clamp, western blot.


Amplifier, analytical balances, benchtop centrifuge, blotting apparatus, culture hood, culture incubators, cryostat, departmental beta and gamma counters, digitata, digital microscope, dissecting microscope, electrometer, electrophysiology rig, EMCCD, fluorescence microscope, fresh tissue sectioning systems, gel apparatus, HPLC, infusion apparatus, low- and high-speed centrifuge, low and ultralow freezers, mass spectrometer, micropipette puller, microwave oven, mini vortexer, monochromator, motorized micromanipulators, plate reader, pneumatic picopump, pressure osmometer, ProBlot hybridization oven, rat running wheels, real-time/thermocycler, setups for electropherosis, stimulator, sitter/hot plate, vibratome, water baths.


Master and Doctoral Students:
Ms. Irene Lecker, MSc-PhD, Dept of Physiology, Sept 2009-present
Project: Transexamic acid blockade of GABAA receptors

Mr. Paul Whissell, PhD, IMS, Aug 2008-present
Project: Extrasynaptic GABAA receptors in dentate gyrus

Ms. Agnes Zurek, MSC-PhD, Physiology Sept 2008-present
Project: Activity dependent regulation of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors

Ms. Jieying Yu, BscH, Jan 2012-present
Project: Mechanisms underlying the effects of Gabapentin

Postdoctoral Fellows:
Sinziana Avramescu, Sept 2010 - Jan 2011 (currently clinical trainee)
Inflammation and anesthetic potency

Dianshi Wang, PhD, Jan 2009 – current
Project: Inflammatory mediators and tonic inhibition

Dr. Antonello Penna, Sept 2011- present
Second messenger regulation of GABAA receptors


Within the Department of Physiology
Martin Wojtowicz
Richard Horner
C. David Mazer
John MacDonald

Outside of the Department of Physiology
Andrew Baker St. Michael’s Hospital

Committee member/officer of national/international scientific organizations
Fellow, Canadian Academies of Health Science
Elected, Board of Trustees, International Anesthesia Research Society
Member, Promotions Committee, Department of Anesthesia, University of Toronto
Co-Founder and member, Patient Safety Committee, Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society
Co-Founder, Institute of Safe Medication Practices- Canada
Member, Technical Committee on Drug Related Standards, Canadian Standards Association


Anaesthesia and Physiology