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Tsunami in the brain
Date:6/12/2008

a of the brain is initially poor, but it can still be saved," explained Dr. Christian Dohmen of the Neurology Department at Cologne University Hospital. The spreading depolarizations additionally impair the metabolism of the weakened nerve cells. "The more frequently such waves occur, the longer the nerve cells require to recover, until finally they die off entirely," says the main author of the study. To what extent the brain is damaged after a stroke depends thus on the number of these spreading depolarizations. This correlation is becoming apparent in humans as well.

Know-how from 60 years of research can now be used for treating stroke patients

The spreading depolarizations, which also occur after head injuries or hemorrhages, can be measured only on the surface of the brain. For this study, the physicians therefore selected 16 patients whose brain had to be partially exposed due to a life threatening swelling of brain tissue. Electrodes were applied to the surface of the brain around the affected tissue (electrocorticography), the incisions were closed, and brain waves were measured for five days. All patients were in an artificial coma during this period due to their serious condition.

"Our study puts an end to the discussion as to whether these waves also occur in a human brain following a stroke," says Dr. Oliver Sakowitz, physician at the Department of Neurosurgery of the University of Heidelberg Hospital and co-author of the study. Now comes the question of how to prevent or at least contain them. "As they cause additional damage to the weakened tissue surrounding the stroke area, it is conceivable that we could prevent further damage by suppressing the waves," said the neurosurgeon.

In previous experimental studies on animals, a few therapy approaches were already developed which physicians can now apply. "The spreading depolarizations are a warning sign that other areas of the brain are at immediate risk an
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Contact: Dr. Annette Tuffs
annette.tuffs@med.uni-heidelberg.de
49-622-156-4536
University Hospital Heidelberg
Source:Eurekalert

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