Brain excitability in stroke: the yin and yang of stroke progression

Arch Neurol. 2012 Feb;69(2):161-7. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2011.1175. Epub 2011 Oct 10.


There is no current medical therapy for stroke recovery. Principles of physiological plasticity have been identified during recovery in both animal models and human stroke. Stroke produces a loss of physiological brain maps in adjacent peri-infarct cortex and then a remapping of motor and sensory functions in this region. This remapping of function in peri-infarct cortex correlates closely with recovery. Recent studies have shown that the stroke produces abnormal conditions of excitability in neuronal circuits adjacent to the infarct that may be the substrate for this process of brain remapping and recovery. Stroke causes a hypoexcitability in peri-infarct motor cortex that stems from increased tonic γ-aminobutyric acid activity onto neurons. Drugs that reverse this γ-aminobutyric acid signaling promote recovery after stroke. Stroke also increases the sensitivity of glutamate receptor signaling in peri-infarct cortex well after the stroke event, and stimulating α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate glutamate receptors in peri-infarct cortex promotes recovery after stroke. Both blocking tonic γ-aminobutyric acid currents and stimulating α-amino-3-hydroxyl-5-methyl-4-isoxazole-propionate receptors promote recovery after stroke when initiated at quite a delay, more than 3 to 5 days after the infarct. These changes in the excitability of neuronal circuits in peri-infarct cortex after stroke may underlie the process of remapping motor and sensory function after stroke and may identify new therapeutic targets to promote stroke recovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Glutamic Acid / physiology
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology
  • Memory / physiology
  • Recovery of Function
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Stroke / psychology
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid / physiology


  • Glutamic Acid
  • gamma-Aminobutyric Acid