Conditions for the triggering of spreading depression studied with computer simulations

J Neurophysiol. 2002 Nov;88(5):2700-12. doi: 10.1152/jn.00237.2002.


In spite of five decades of study, the biophysics of spreading depression (SD) is incompletely understood. Earlier we have modeled seizures and SD, and we have shown that currents through ion channels normally present in neuron membranes can generate SD-like depolarization. In the present study, we define the conditions for triggering SD and the parameters that influence its course in a model of a hippocampal pyramidal cell with more complete representation of ions and channels than the previous version. "Leak" conductances for Na(+), K(+), and Cl(-) and an ion pump were present in the membrane of the entire cell; fast inactivating voltage dependent conductances for sodium and potassium in the soma; "persistent" conductances in soma and apical dendrite, and K(+)- and voltage-dependent N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-controlled conductance in the apical dendrite. The neuron was surrounded by restricted interstitial space and by a "glia-endothelium" system of extracellular ion regulation bounded by a membrane having leak conductances and an ion pump. Ion fluxes and concentration changes were continuously computed as well as osmotic cell volume changes. As long as reuptake into the neuron and "buffering" by glia kept pace with K(+) released from the neuron, stimulating current applied to the soma evoked repetitive firing that stopped when stimulation ceased. When glial uptake was reduced, K(+) released from neurons could accumulate in the interstitium and keep the neuron depolarized so that strong depolarizing pulses injected into the soma were followed either by afterdischarge or SD. SD-like depolarization was ignited when depolarization spreading into the apical dendrite, activated persistent Na(+) current and NMDA-controlled current. With membrane parameters constant, varying the injected stimulating current influenced SD onset but neither the depolarization nor the increase in extracellular K(+). Glial "leak" conductance influenced SD duration and SD ignition point. Varying maximal conductances (representing channel density) also influenced SD onset time but not the amplitude of the depolarization. Hypoxia was simulated by turning off the Na-K exchange pump, and this resulted in SD-like depolarization. The results confirm that, once ignited, SD runs an all-or-none trajectory, the level of depolarization is governed by feedback involving ion shifts and glutamate acting on ion channels and not by the number of channels open, and SD is ignited if the net persistent membrane current in the apical dendrites turns inward.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Buffers
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cortical Spreading Depression / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Ion Channels / physiology
  • Kinetics
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuroglia / metabolism
  • Neuroglia / physiology
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • Potassium / physiology


  • Buffers
  • Ion Channels
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Potassium