Blood gene expression profiles of very brief (5 and 10 mins) focal ischemia that simulates transient ischemic attacks in humans were compared with ischemic stroke (120 mins focal ischemia), sham, and naïve controls. The number of significantly regulated genes after 5 and 10 mins of cerebral ischemia was 39 and 160, respectively (fold change >/=mid R:1.5mid R: and P<0.05). There were 103 genes common to brief focal ischemia and ischemic stroke. Ingenuity pathway analysis showed that genes regulated in the 5 mins group were mainly involved in small molecule biochemistry. Genes regulated in the 10 mins group were involved in cell death, development, growth, and proliferation. Such genes were also regulated in the ischemic stroke group. Genes common to ischemia were involved in the inflammatory response, immune response, and cell death-indicating that these pathways are a feature of focal ischemia, regardless of the duration. These results provide evidence that brief focal ischemia differentially regulates gene expression in the peripheral blood in a manner that could distinguish brief focal ischemia from ischemic stroke and controls in rats. We postulate that this will also occur in humans.