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Brain. 2010 Apr;133(Pt 4):996-1012. doi: 10.1093/brain/awp338. Epub 2010 Mar 25.

Biphasic direct current shift, haemoglobin desaturation and neurovascular uncoupling in cortical spreading depression.

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  • 1Headache Research and Treatment Program, Department of Neurology, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 635 Charles E. Young Drive South, Neuroscience Research Building 1, Room 555a, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA.


Cortical spreading depression is a propagating wave of depolarization that plays important roles in migraine, stroke, subarachnoid haemorrhage and brain injury. Cortical spreading depression is associated with profound vascular changes that may be a significant factor in the clinical response to cortical spreading depression events. We used a combination of optical intrinsic signal imaging, electro-physiology, potassium sensitive electrodes and spectroscopy to investigate neurovascular changes associated with cortical spreading depression in the mouse. We identified two distinct phases of altered neurovascular function, one during the propagating cortical spreading depression wave and a second much longer phase after passage of the wave. The direct current shift associated with the cortical spreading depression wave was accompanied by marked arterial constriction and desaturation of cortical haemoglobin. After recovery from the initial cortical spreading depression wave, we observed a second phase of prolonged, negative direct current shift, arterial constriction and haemoglobin desaturation, lasting at least an hour. Persistent disruption of neurovascular coupling was demonstrated by a loss of coherence between electro-physiological activity and perfusion. Extracellular potassium concentration increased during the cortical spreading depression wave, but recovered and remained at baseline after passage of the wave, consistent with different mechanisms underlying the first and second phases of neurovascular dysfunction. These findings indicate that cortical spreading depression is associated with a multiphasic alteration in neurovascular function, including a novel second direct current shift accompanied by arterial constriction and decrease in tissue oxygen supply, that is temporally and mechanistically distinct from the initial propagated cortical spreading depression wave. Vascular/metabolic uncoupling with cortical spreading depression may have important clinical consequences, and the different phases of dysfunction may represent separate therapeutic targets in the disorders where cortical spreading depression occurs.

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