Spreading depression: Imaging and blockade in the rat neocortical brain slice

Trent R. Anderson, R. David Andrew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Spreading depression (SD) is a profound but transient depolarization of neurons and glia that migrates across the cortical and subcortical gray at 2-5 mm/min. Under normoxic conditions, SD occurs during migraine aura where it precedes migraine pain but does not damage tissue. During stroke and head trauma, however, SD can arise repeatedly near the site of injury and may promote neuronal damage. We developed a superfused brain slice preparation that can repeatedly support robust SD during imaging and electrophysiological recording to test drugs that may block SD. Submerged rat neocortical slices were briefly exposed to artificial cerebrospinal fluid (ACSF) with KC1 elevated to 26 mM. SD was evoked within 2 min, recorded in layers II/III both as a negative DC shift and as a propagating front of elevated light transmittance (LT) representing transient cell swelling in all cortical layers. An SD episode was initiated focally and could be repeatedly evoked and imaged with no damage to slices. As reported in vivo, pretreatment with one of several N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor antagonists blocked SD, but a non-NMDA glutamate receptor antagonist (CNQX) had no effect. NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activation does not initiate SD nor are NMDAR antagonists tolerated therapeutically so we searched for more efficacious drugs to block SD generation. Pretreatment with the sigma-one receptor (σ1R) agonists dextromethorphan (10-100 μM), carbetapentane (100 μM), or 4-IBP (30 μM) blocked SD, even when KC1 exposure was extended beyond 5 min. The block was independent of NMDA receptor antagonism. Two σ1R antagonists [(+)-3PPP and BD-1063] removed this block but had no effect upon SD alone. Remarkably, the σ1R agonists also substantially reduced general cell swelling evoked by bath application of 26 mM KCl. More potent σ1R ligands that are therapeutically tolerated could prove useful in reducing SD associated with migraine and be of potential use in stroke or head trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2713-2725
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Physiology


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