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Mini-strokes leave 'hidden' brain damage: Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC Research
Date:1/28/2011

Each year, approximately 150,000 Canadians have a transient ischemic attack (TIA), sometimes known as a mini-stroke. New research published today in Stroke, the journal of the American Heart Association shows these attacks may not be transient at all. They in fact create lasting damage to the brain.

The stroke research team, led by Dr. Lara Boyd, physical therapist and neuroscientist with the Brain Research Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia, studied 13 patients from the Stroke Prevention Clinic at Vancouver General Hospital and compared them against 13 healthy study participants. The TIA subjects had all experienced an acute episode affecting motor systems, but had symptoms resolved within 24 hours. The patients were studied within 14-30 days of their episode, and showed no impairment through clinical evaluation or standard imaging (CT or MRI). Participants then underwent a unique brain mapping procedure using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) with profound results.

"What we found has never been seen before," says Dr. Boyd, who also holds the Canada Research Chair in Neurobiology of Motor Learning at UBC. "The brain mapping capabilities of the TMS showed us that TIA is actually causing damage to the brain that lasts much longer than we previously thought it did. In fact, we are not sure if the brain ever recovers."

In the TIA group, brain cells on the affected side of the brain showed changes in their excitability making it harder for both excitatory and inhibitory neurons to respond as compared to the undamaged side and to a group of people with healthy brains. These changes are very concerning to the researchers as they show that TIA is likely not a transient event.

A transient ischemic attack is characterized as a brief episode of blood loss to the brain, creating symptoms such as numbness or tingling, temporary loss of vision, difficulty speaking, or weakness on o
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Contact: Lisa Carver
lisa.carver@vch.ca
604-875-4111 x61777
University of British Columbia
Source:Eurekalert

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