Michael Alkire is an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care at the University of California, Irvine. He received his M.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine in 1990.
Dr. Alkire’s research uses neuroimaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and high density electroencephalography (EEG) to examine the mechanisms of anesthetic action on consciousness and the neurobiology of memory and pain processing. Further, he has contributed to the investigation and development of new clinical monitoring technology. Dr. Alkire’s research addressing the neurology of consciousness not only provides insight into the almost philosophical question of “where is it in the brain that we exist,” but also contributes to the understanding of the neural mechanics involved in mental illness. An influential publication of Dr. Alkire’s presents findings regarding the process by which anesthesia eliminates consciousness. His findings reveal that the parietal cortex is blocked from integrating information from other brain structures when under anesthesia, thereby preventing primary sensory awareness. These results support the theory that consciousness is the brain’s way of quantifying, storing, and communicating information.
Dr. Alkire’s research has also shed light on how emotion and memory work in the brain. He examined the connection between emotional arousal and long-term memory consolidation through investigating participants’ reactions to emotionally arousing or emotionally neutral slides when under various doses of an inhaled anesthetic or placebo. He found that suppression of the amygdala, a brain structure involved in mental states and psychological disorders, through anesthesia blocked memory cues for emotional arousal. Meaning, participants who received the anesthesia did not show a “boost” in response when tested later for emotional stimuli when compared to the placebo group. Dr. Alkire’s work demonstrates how anesthesia is a useful tool in clarifying the neurobiology of emotionally-laden memories and thus provides useful information regarding the development and treatment of disorders that involve emotional and memory, such as posttraumatic stress disorder.
Dr. Alkire has been recognized internationally for his work in understanding brain structure and function. He has received multiple awards from his colleagues at the International Anesthesia Research Society meeting. As a result of his academic succes he was elected as a Fellow of the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.