Anoxia tolerant brains

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2004 May;24(5):475-86. doi: 10.1097/00004647-200405000-00001.


While medical science has struggled to find ways to counteract anoxic brain damage with limited success, evolution has repeatedly solved this problem. The best-studied examples of anoxia-tolerant vertebrates are the crucian carp and some North American Freshwater turtles. These can survive anoxia for days to months, depending of temperature. Both animals successfully fight any major fall in brain ATP levels, but the strategies they use to accomplish this are quite divergent. The anoxic turtle suppresses brain activity to such a degree that it becomes virtually comatose. The underlying mechanisms involve closing down ion conductances and releasing GABA and adenosine. By contrast, the crucian carp remains active in anoxia, although it suppresses selected brain functions, and avoids lactate self-poisoning by producing an exotic anaerobic end-product. These animals provide unique models for studying anoxic survival mechanisms both on a molecular and physiological level.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Carps / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Hypoxia*
  • Hypoxia, Brain / prevention & control
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Temperature
  • Turtles / physiology


  • Ion Channels
  • Neurotransmitter Agents
  • Oxygen