About Zhongcong Xie, MD, PhD

Alzheimer's disease (AD) is one of the greatest public health problems in the US, and its impact will only increase with demographic changes anticipated in the coming decades. Post-operative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), a disorder including impairment of learning and memory following anesthesia and surgery, can significantly affect post-operative recovery of patients. The short-term and long-term effects of general anesthesia on aging brain function represent a burgeoning area of research interest.

The long-term mission of our lab (The Geriatric Anesthesia Research Unit) is to improve the perioperative experience of the elderly patient undergoing surgery. Our research focus on determining the neuropathogenesis of AD and POCD, and assessing the potential neurotoxicity of anesthesia. Specifically, we study the effects of anesthetics on apoptosis, cell death, beta-amyloid protein metabolism and neuroinflammation in cultured cells, animals and humans.

Clinical Interests:




Mass General Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
55 Fruit St.
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-726-3030

Medical Education

  • PhD, Wayne State University School of Medicine
  • MD, Xuzhou Medical College
  • Residency, Massachusetts General Hospital

American Board Certifications

  • Anesthesiology, American Board of Anesthesiology

Accepted Insurance Plans

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Research Areas

  • Investigating the neuropathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease and Postoperative cognitive dysfunction.
  • Studying neurotoxicity of anesthetics and other perioperative factors, e.g., pain and sleep deprivation.
  • Assessing cognitive function and postoperative delirium in humans.

 Description of Research 

Our own laboratory studies have suggested that perioperative factors such as hypoxia, hypocapnia, surgery, anesthetics, sleep deprivation and pain may contribute to neuropathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), postoperative cognitive dysfunction (POCD), and delirium. Future projects in the Geriatric Anesthesia Research Unit in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at MGH will explore the nature of the relationship between these perioperative factors and AD, work that may shed more light on AD neuropathogenesis; we will investigate the perioperative factors associated with POCD and attempt to establish a possible association between these factors and delirium. Our work proceeds at both the cellular and molecular levels in cultured cells, neurons, mice and human subjects, and we employ such techniques as somatic gene transfer, genetic modification of animal models, RNA interference, RT-PCR, and immunocytochemistry; we also use various pharmacological tools and behavioral evaluations (e.g., Morris Water Maze and Fear Conditioning Test) when these are indicated. These efforts may illustrate whether general anesthesia, surgery and other perioperative factors can initiate or accelerate the development of AD, POCD and delirium. The results of these studies will ultimately guide clinicians with regard to how to provide the safest anesthesia care for patients.


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