This study originated in an attempt to secure more data for the understanding of the cortical electrogram which occurs in “experimental epilepsy,” and of the conditions in which it is brought forth by electrical stimulation. Early in the development of the study an interesting response, elicited by electrical stimulation, was noticed in the cortex of rabbits. The distinctive feature of this response was a marked, enduring reduction of the “spontaneous” electrical activity of the cortex. We have endeavored to define experimentally some of the characteristics of this response.
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The spreading depression of activity, a response elicited by local stimulation of the cerebral cortex, has been described previously. Briefly, this response consists of a marked, enduring reduction of the “spontaneous” electrical activity, a reduction which appears first at the region stimulated and spreads out from there in all directions, involving successively more and more distant parts of the cerebral cortex. The rate of spread is slow: in rabbits, under dial, a response started in the frontal region takes 4 or 5 minutes to reach the occipital pole. Recovery of the initial pattern of spontaneous” electrical activity requires 5 to 10 minutes at each region. Specific electrical activity, different from the “spontaneous,” often develops during the period of depression in some cortical regions. This activity, when intense, closely resembles the “seizure pattern” of experimental epilepsy. The following study considers another aspect of this response: a slow voltage variation, having a duration of several minutes.
It was shown in a previous paper that the spreading depression of cortical activity is accompanied by a transitory decrease of the cortical volume which travels over the cortex at the same low velocity as the depression (3-4 mm/min). It was postulated that this volumetric change is caused by a travelling wave of cortical vasoconstriction. The demonstration of a drop in cortical oxygen tension which accompanies the spreading depression supported this latter concept. Furthermore, the spreading depression is accompanied by a slow but considerable (up to 10 mV) change in electrical potential, the cortex first turning negative, then positive with respect to an indifferent electrode. The slow potential change, the volumetric change, and the drop in oxygen tension were found to develop practically simultaneously and to precede the depression of cortical activity by 10-40 sec. In view of the sensitivity of the electrocorticogram to asphyxiation, the possibility was considered that the depression of cortical activity is an asphyxia phenomenon produced by the wave of vasoconstriction travelling over the cortex. In the present paper, investigations are reported in which it was attempted to affect in various ways the wave of vasoconstriction in the hope of influencing in this manner the spreading depression of cortical activity.
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In the surroundings of focal ischemic lesions, repetitive spreading depression (SD)-like depolarizations occur. These depolarizations are triggered by the anoxic release of potassium and excitatory amino acids from the infarct core, and they are propagated over the whole hemisphere at a speed of approximately 3 mm/min. The associated fluid shifts can be detected by diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and correlate with an aggravation of the metabolic disturbance. In the peripheral, normally perfused brain regions of the infarcted hemisphere, the metabolic workload of SD is coupled to a parallel increase of blood flow, ensuring undisturbed oxygen supply. In the periinfarct penumbra, in contrast, the reduced hemodynamic capacity of the collateral system prevents adequate oxygenation and results in episodes of tissue hypoxia. Periinfarct SDs induce expression of immediate early genes in all brain regions except the ischemic core, i.e, in the penumbra and the surrounding normal brain tissue. In the penumbra, the hypoxic episodes evoked by SDs produce an additional stress response that is reflected by the expression of stress proteins and the suppression of global protein synthesis. In the most severely ischemic parts of the penumbra, periinfarct depolarizations may turn into terminal depolarization, resulting in a stepwise expansion of the infarct core. Postischemic application of N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) and non-NMDA glutamate receptor antagonists suppresses periinfarct depolarizations, reverses the penumbral suppression of protein synthesis, and reduces infarct size. These observations demonstrate that periinfarct depolarizations aggravate focal ischemic injury and suggest that therapeutic suppression of these depolarizations minimizes infarct size.
Spreading depression (SD) and the related hypoxic SD-like depolarization (HSD) are characterized by rapid and nearly complete depolarization of a sizable population of brain cells with massive redistribution of ions between intracellular and extracellular compartments, that evolves as a regenerative, “all-or-none” type process, and propagates slowly as a wave in brain tissue. This article reviews the characteristics of SD and HSD and the main hypotheses that have been proposed to explain them. Both SD and HSD are composites of concurrent processes. Antagonists ofN-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) channels or voltage-gated Na+ or certain types of Ca2+channels can postpone or mitigate SD or HSD, but it takes a combination of drugs blocking all known major inward currents to effectively prevent HSD. Recent computer simulation confirmed that SD can be produced by positive feedback achieved by increase of extracellular K+ concentration that activates persistent inward currents which then activate K+ channels and release more K+. Any slowly inactivating voltage and/or K+-dependent inward current could generate SD-like depolarization, but ordinarily, it is brought about by the cooperative action of the persistent Na+ currentI Na,P plus NMDA receptor-controlled current. SD is ignited when the sum of persistent inward currents exceeds persistent outward currents so that total membrane current turns inward. The degree of depolarization is not determined by the number of channels available, but by the feedback that governs the SD process. Short bouts of SD and HSD are well tolerated, but prolonged depolarization results in lasting loss of neuron function. Irreversible damage can, however, be avoided if Ca2+ influx into neurons is prevented.
The term spreading depolarization describes a wave in the gray matter of the central nervous system characterized by swelling of neurons, distortion of dendritic spines, a large change of the slow electrical potential and silencing of brain electrical activity (spreading depression). In the clinic, unequivocal electrophysiological evidence now exists that spreading depolarizations occur abundantly in individuals with aneurismal subarachnoid hemorrhage, delayed ischemic stroke after subarachnoid hemorrhage, malignant hemispheric stroke, spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage or traumatic brain injury. Spreading depolarization is induced experimentally by various noxious conditions including chemicals such as potassium, glutamate, inhibitors of the sodium pump, status epilepticus, hypoxia, hypoglycemia and ischemia, but it can can also invade healthy, naive tissue. Resistance vessels respond to it with tone alterations, causing either transient hyperperfusion (physiological hemodynamic response) in healthy tissue or severe hypoperfusion (inverse hemodynamic response, or spreading ischemia) in tissue at risk for progressive damage, which contributes to lesion progression. Therapies that target spreading depolarization or the inverse hemodynamic response may potentially treat these neurological conditions.
Contrary to Golgi's "reticular" theory of nervous structure, it is clear that the synapse rules over communication among nerve cells. Spreading depression, however, does not follow synaptic pathways. It sweeps across gray matter like a political revolution, ignoring structural boundaries and carefully established regulatory mechanisms. Neurons form alliances with their usually subordinate partners, the astrocytes, to cause a perturbation of function that strains resources necessary for recovery. Innocent bystanders, the blood vessels, are obliged to try to ameliorate the disturbance but may not be able to respond optimally in the chaotic environment. Under extreme circumstances, a purge of some of the instigators may ensue. This anarchic picture of interactions among the elements of nervous tissue does little to rescue the reticular theory that was one of Golgi's most important intellectual offerings. Nevertheless, it reminds us that the behavior of populations of nerve cells need not necessarily be limited by the pathways dictated by synaptic junctions. Spreading depression is a multifactorial phenomenon, in which intense depolarization of neurons and/or astrocytes leads to perturbations that include release of K(+), release of glutamate, increase in intracellular Ca(++), release of ATP and local anoxia, as well as vascular changes. This process plays a role in migraine and contributes to the damage produced by brain anoxia, trauma, stroke, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. It may provide clues to new treatments for the damaged brain.
Cortical spreading depression (CSD) and depolarization waves are associated with dramatic failure of brain ion homeostasis, efflux of excitatory amino acids from nerve cells, increased energy metabolism and changes in cerebral blood flow (CBF). There is strong clinical and experimental evidence to suggest that CSD is involved in the mechanism of migraine, stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury. The implications of these findings are widespread and suggest that intrinsic brain mechanisms have the potential to worsen the outcome of cerebrovascular episodes or brain trauma. The consequences of these intrinsic mechanisms are intimately linked to the composition of the brain extracellular microenvironment and to the level of brain perfusion and in consequence brain energy supply. This paper summarizes the evidence provided by novel invasive techniques, which implicates CSD as a pathophysiological mechanism for this group of acute neurological disorders. The findings have implications for monitoring and treatment of patients with acute brain disorders in the intensive care unit. Drawing on the large body of experimental findings from animal studies of CSD obtained during decades we suggest treatment strategies, which may be used to prevent or attenuate secondary neuronal damage in acutely injured human brain cortex caused by depolarization waves.
Spreading depression (SD) is a transient wave of near-complete neuronal and glial depolarization associated with massive transmembrane ionic and water shifts. It is evolutionarily conserved in the central nervous systems of a wide variety of species from locust to human. The depolarization spreads slowly at a rate of only millimeters per minute by way of grey matter contiguity, irrespective of functional or vascular divisions, and lasts up to a minute in otherwise normal tissue. As such, SD is a radically different breed of electrophysiological activity compared with everyday neural activity, such as action potentials and synaptic transmission. Seventy years after its discovery by Leão, the mechanisms of SD and its profound metabolic and hemodynamic effects are still debated. What we did learn of consequence, however, is that SD plays a central role in the pathophysiology of a number of diseases including migraine, ischemic stroke, intracranial hemorrhage, and traumatic brain injury. An intriguing overlap among them is that they are all neurovascular disorders. Therefore, the interplay between neurons and vascular elements is critical for our understanding of the impact of this homeostatic breakdown in patients. The challenges of translating experimental data into human pathophysiology notwithstanding, this review provides a detailed account of bidirectional interactions between brain parenchyma and the cerebral vasculature during SD and puts this in the context of neurovascular diseases.
The term spreading depolarization (SD) refers to waves of abrupt, sustained mass depolarization in gray matter of the CNS. SD, which spreads from neuron to neuron in affected tissue, is characterized by a rapid near-breakdown of the neuronal transmembrane ion gradients. SD can be induced by hypoxic conditions—such as from ischemia—and facilitates neuronal death in energy-compromised tissue. SD has also been implicated in migraine aura, where SD is assumed to ascend in well-nourished tissue and is typically benign. In addition to these two ends of the “SD continuum,” an SD wave can propagate from an energy-depleted tissue into surrounding, well-nourished tissue, as is often the case in stroke and brain trauma. This review presents the neurobiology of SD—its triggers and propagation mechanisms—as well as clinical manifestations of SD, including overlaps and differences between migraine aura and stroke, and recent developments in neuromonitoring aimed at better diagnosis and more targeted treatments.
Spreading depolarizations (SD) are waves of abrupt, near-complete breakdown of neuronal transmembrane ion gradients, are the largest possible pathophysiologic disruption of viable cerebral gray matter, and are a crucial mechanism of lesion development. Spreading depolarizations are increasingly recorded during multimodal neuromonitoring in neurocritical care as a causal biomarker providing a diagnostic summary measure of metabolic failure and excitotoxic injury. Focal ischemia causes spreading depolarization within minutes. Further spreading depolarizations arise for hours to days due to energy supply-demand mismatch in viable tissue. Spreading depolarizations exacerbate neuronal injury through prolonged ionic breakdown and spreading depolarization-related hypoperfusion (spreading ischemia). Local duration of the depolarization indicates local tissue energy status and risk of injury. Regional electrocorticographic monitoring affords even remote detection of injury because spreading depolarizations propagate widely from ischemic or metabolically stressed zones; characteristic patterns, including temporal clusters of spreading depolarizations and persistent depression of spontaneous cortical activity, can be recognized and quantified. Here, we describe the experimental basis for interpreting these patterns and illustrate their translation to human disease. We further provide consensus recommendations for electrocorticographic methods to record, classify, and score spreading depolarizations and associated spreading depressions. These methods offer distinct advantages over other neuromonitoring modalities and allow for future refinement through less invasive and more automated approaches.
A modern understanding of how cerebral cortical lesions develop after acute brain injury is based on Aristides Leão’s historic discoveries of spreading depression and asphyxial/anoxic depolarization. Treated as separate entities for decades, we now appreciate that these events define a continuum of spreading mass depolarizations, a concept that is central to understanding their pathologic effects. Within minutes of acute severe ischemia, the onset of persistent depolarization triggers the breakdown of ion homeostasis and development of cytotoxic edema. These persistent changes are diagnosed as diffusion restriction in magnetic resonance imaging and define the ischemic core. In delayed lesion growth, transient spreading depolarizations arise spontaneously in the ischemic penumbra and induce further persistent depolarization and excitotoxic damage, progressively expanding the ischemic core. The causal role of these waves in lesion development has been proven by real-time monitoring of electrophysiology, blood flow, and cytotoxic edema. The spreading depolarization continuum further applies to other models of acute cortical lesions, suggesting that it is a universal principle of cortical lesion development. These pathophysiologic concepts establish a working hypothesis for translation to human disease, where complex patterns of depolarizations are observed in acute brain injury and appear to mediate and signal ongoing secondary damage.
A new research field in translational neuroscience has opened as a result of the recognition since 2002 that "spreading depression of Leão" can be detected in many patients with acute brain injury, whether vascular and spontaneous, or traumatic in origin, as well as in those many individuals experiencing the visual (or sensorimotor) aura of migraine. In this review, we trace from their first description in rabbits through to their detection and study in migraine and the injured human brain, and from our personal perspectives, the evolution of understanding of the importance of spread of mass depolarisations in cerebral grey matter. Detection of spontaneous depolarisations occurring and spreading in the periphery or penumbra of experimental focal cortical ischemic lesions and of their adverse effects on the cerebral cortical microcirculation and on the tissue glucose and oxygen pools has led to clearer concepts of how ischaemic and traumatic lesions evolve in the injured human brain, and of how to seek to improve clinical management and outcome. Recognition of the likely fundamental significance of spreading depolarisations for this wide range of serious acute encephalopathies in humans provides a powerful case for a fresh examination of neuroprotection strategies.
Background and Purpose: Cortical spreading depression (CSD) has been much studied experimentally but never demonstrated unequivocally in human neocortex by direct electrophysiological recording. A similar phenomenon, peri-infarct depolarization, occurs in experimental models of stroke and causes the infarct to enlarge. Our current understanding of the mechanisms of deterioration in the days after major traumatic or ischemic brain injury in humans has not yielded any effective, novel drug treatment. This study sought clear evidence for the occurrence and propagation of CSD in the injured human brain.
Methods: In 14 patients undergoing neurosurgery after head injury or intracranial hemorrhage, we placed electrocorticographic (ECoG) electrodes near foci of damaged cortical tissue.
Results: Transient episodes of depressed ECoG activity that propagated across the cortex at rates in the range of 0.6 to 5.0 mm/min were observed in 5 patients; this rate of propagation is characteristic of CSD. We also observed, in 8 of the 14 patients, transient depressions of ECoG amplitude that appeared essentially simultaneous in all recording channels, without clear evidence of spread.
Conclusions: These results indicate that CSD or similar events occur in the injured human brain and are more frequent than previously suggested. On the basis of these observations, we suggest that the related phenomenon, peri-infarct depolarization, is indeed likely to occur in boundary zones in the ischemic human cerebral cortex.
Electrocorticographic (ECoG) activity was recorded for up to 129 h from 12 acutely brain-injured human patients using six platinum electrodes placed near foci of damaged cortical tissue. The method probes ECoG activity in the immediate vicinity of the injured cortex and in adjacent supposedly healthy tissue. Six out of twelve patients displayed a total of 73 spontaneous episodes of spreading depression of the ECoG. Of the remaining 6 patients 1 displayed an episode of synchronous depression of ECoG during surgery. Using the same electrodes we also measured the slow potential changes (SPC) (0.005–0.05 Hz) to test the hypothesis that the ECoG depressions were identical to Leao's cortical spreading depression (CSD), and to be able to record peri-infarct depolarisations (PIDs) in electrically ‘silent’ cortical tissue. Changes in the SPC indicate depolarization of brain tissue. For the analysis, the SPCs were enhanced by calculating the time integral of the ECoG signal. Spreading ECoG depressions were accompanied at every single recording site by stereotyped SPCs, which spread across the cortical mantle at 3.3 (0.41–10) mm/min (median, range), i.e. at the same speed of spread as the depression of the ECoG activity. The amplitude of the SPCs was 0.06–3 mV. In 4 out of 6 patients the ECoG recovered spontaneously. In 2 patients we subsequently recorded recurrent SPCs, but without recovery of the initial ECoG background activity until 2–5 h later. This represents the first direct recording of PIDs in acutely injured human brain. Evidence from this and our previous study of 14 brain-injured patients suggests that CSDs in acute brain disorders occur at higher incidence in patients <30 years (83%) than above (33%). CSD was recorded in 4 out of 5 traumatic brain injury patients, and in 2 out of 7 patients with spontaneous haemorrhages. We conclude that the spreading ECoG depressions recorded in patients are identical to CSDs recorded in animal experiments. We furthermore provide direct electrophysiological evidence for the existence of PIDs and hence a penumbra in the human brain. We hypothesize that the depolarization events might contribute to tissue damage in acute disorders in the human brain.
Progressive ischaemic damage in animals is associated with spreading mass depolarizations of neurons and astrocytes, detected as spreading negative slow voltage variations. Speculation on whether spreading depolarizations occur in human ischaemic stroke has continued for the past 60 years. Therefore, we performed a prospective multicentre study assessing incidence and timing of spreading depolarizations and delayed ischaemic neurological deficit (DIND) in patients with major subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) requiring aneurysm surgery. Spreading depolarizations were recorded by electrocorticography with a subdural electrode strip placed on cerebral cortex for up to 10 days. A total of 2110 h recording time was analysed. The clinical state was monitored every 6 h. Delayed infarcts after SAH were verified by serial CT scans and/or MRI. Electrocorticography revealed 298 spreading depolarizations in 13 of the 18 patients (72%). A clinical DIND was observed in seven patients 7.8 days (7.3, 8.2) after SAH. DIND was time-locked to a sequence of recurrent spreading depolarizations in every single case (positive and negative predictive values: 86 and 100%, respectively). In four patients delayed infarcts developed in the recording area. As in the ischaemic penumbra of animals, delayed infarction was preceded by progressive prolongation of the electrocorticographic depression periods associated with spreading depolarizations to >60 min in each case. This study demonstrates that spreading depolarizations have a high incidence in major SAH and occur in ischaemic stroke. Repeated spreading depolarizations with prolonged depression periods are an early indicator of delayed ischaemic brain damage after SAH. In view of experimental evidence and the present clinical results, we suggest that spreading depolarizations with prolonged depressions are a promising target for treatment development in SAH and ischaemic stroke.
Objective: Cortical spreading depression (CSD) and periinfarct depolarization (PID) have been shown in various experimental models of stroke to cause secondary neuronal damage and infarct expansion. For decades it has been questioned whether CSD or PID occur in human ischemic stroke. Here, we describe CSD and PID in patients with malignant middle cerebral artery infarction detected by subdural electrocorticography (ECoG).Methods: Centres of the Co-operative Study of Brain Injury Depolarisations (COSBID) recruited 16 patients with large middle cerebral artery infarction. During surgery for decompressive hemicraniectomy, an electrode strip was placed on the periinfarct region, from which four ECoG channels were acquired.Results: A total of 1,638 hours was recorded; mean monitoring time per patient was 109.2 hours. A total of 127 CSD and 42 PID events were observed. In CSD, a stereotyped slow potential change spreading between adjacent channels was accompanied by transient depression of ECoG activity. In PID, a slow potential change spread between neighboring channels despite already established suppression of ECoG activity. Most CSDs and PIDs appeared repetitively in clusters. CSD or PID was observed in all but two patients. In these two patients, the electrode strip had been placed over infarcted tissue, and accordingly, no local ECoG or recurrent transient depolarization activity occurred throughout the observation period.
Interpretation: CSD and PID occurred spontaneously with high frequency in this study of patients with malignant middle cerebral artery infarction. This suggests that the large volume of experimental studies of occlusive stroke that implicate spreading depolarizations in its pathophysiology can be translated, with appropriate caution, to patients and their treatment.
The term cortical spreading depolarization (CSD) describes a wave of mass neuronal depolarization associated with net influx of cations and water. Clusters of prolonged CSDs were measured time-locked to progressive ischaemic damage in human cortex. CSD induces tone alterations in resistance vessels, causing either transient hyperperfusion (physiological haemodynamic response) in healthy tissue; or hypoperfusion [inverse haemodynamic response = cortical spreading ischaemia (CSI)] in tissue at risk for progressive damage, which has so far only been shown experimentally. Here, we performed a prospective, multicentre study in 13 patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid haemorrhage, using novel subdural opto-electrode technology for simultaneous laser-Doppler flowmetry (LDF) and direct current-electrocorticography, combined with measurements of tissue partial pressure of oxygen (ptiO2). Regional cerebral blood flow and electrocorticography were simultaneously recorded in 417 CSDs. Isolated CSDs occurred in 12 patients and were associated with either physiological, absent or inverse haemodynamic responses. Whereas the physiological haemodynamic response caused tissue hyperoxia, the inverse response led to tissue hypoxia. Clusters of prolonged CSDs were measured in five patients in close proximity to structural brain damage as assessed by neuroimaging. Clusters were associated with CSD-induced spreading hypoperfusions, which were significantly longer in duration (up to 144 min) than those of isolated CSDs. Thus, oxygen depletion caused by the inverse haemodynamic response may contribute to the establishment of clusters of prolonged CSDs and lesion progression. Combined electrocorticography and perfusion monitoring also revealed a characteristic vascular signature that might be used for non-invasive detection of CSD. Low-frequency vascular fluctuations (LF-VF) (f < 0.1 Hz), detectable by functional imaging methods, are determined by the brain's resting neuronal activity. CSD provides a depolarization block of the resting activity, recorded electrophysiologically as spreading depression of high-frequency-electrocorticography activity. Accordingly, we observed a spreading suppression of LF-VF, which accompanied spreading depression of high-frequency-electrocorticography activity, independently of whether CSD was associated with a physiological, absent or inverse haemodynamic response. Spreading suppressions of LF-VF thus allow the differentiation of progressive ischaemia and repair phases in a fashion similar to that shown previously for spreading depressions of high-frequency-electrocorticography activity. In conclusion, it is suggested that (i) CSI is a novel human disease mechanism associated with lesion development and a potential target for therapeutic intervention in stroke; and that (ii) prolonged spreading suppressions of LF-VF are a novel ‘functional marker’ for progressive ischaemia.