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J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2011 May;31(5):1187-95. doi: 10.1038/jcbfm.2011.24. Epub 2011 Mar 2.

The parasympathetic nervous system in the quest for stroke therapeutics.

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Center for Immunology and Inflammation, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY 11030, USA.


Stroke is a devastating neurovascular disease with limited therapeutic options. The pathogenesis of stroke involves complex interrelated molecular mechanisms including excitotoxicity, oxidative and nitrosative stress, cortical spreading depolarizations, inflammation, necrosis, and apoptosis. Successful development of stroke therapeutics depends on understanding these molecular mechanisms and how to counteract them to limit tissue damage during stroke. Activation of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) has been shown to antagonize a multiplicity of pathologic mechanisms. Elements of parasympathetic activation such as vagus nerve stimulation have already been used successfully in treating brain disorders such as epilepsy and depression. This review discusses the anatomical basis and molecular mechanisms involved in activation of the PNS, and assesses the strength of available evidence for the further development of this modality into a stroke therapy.

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