Spreading depression (SD) is an interesting and important phenomenon due to its role in mammalian pathologies such as migraine, seizures, and stroke. Until recently investigations of the mechanisms involved in SD have mostly utilized mammalian cortical tissue, however we have discovered that SD-like events occur in the CNS of an invertebrate model, Locusta migratoria. Locusts enter comas in response to stress during which neural and muscular systems shut down until the stress is removed, and this is believed to be an adaptive strategy to survive extreme environmental conditions. During stress-induced comas SD-like events occur in the locust metathoracic ganglion (MTG) that closely resemble cortical SD (CSD) in many respects, including mechanism of induction, extracellular potassium ion changes, and propagation in areas equivalent to mammalian grey matter. In this review we describe the generation of comas and the associated SD-like events in the locust, provide a description of the similarities to CSD, and show how they can be manipulated both by stress preconditioning and pharmacologically. We also suggest that locust SD-like events are adaptive by conserving energy and preventing cellular damage, and we provide a model for the mechanism of SD onset and recovery in the locust nervous system.
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