The stroke-migraine depolarization continuum

Neuron. 2015 May 20;86(4):902-922. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2015.04.004.


The term spreading depolarization (SD) refers to waves of abrupt, sustained mass depolarization in gray matter of the CNS. SD, which spreads from neuron to neuron in affected tissue, is characterized by a rapid near-breakdown of the neuronal transmembrane ion gradients. SD can be induced by hypoxic conditions--such as from ischemia--and facilitates neuronal death in energy-compromised tissue. SD has also been implicated in migraine aura, where SD is assumed to ascend in well-nourished tissue and is typically benign. In addition to these two ends of the "SD continuum," an SD wave can propagate from an energy-depleted tissue into surrounding, well-nourished tissue, as is often the case in stroke and brain trauma. This review presents the neurobiology of SD--its triggers and propagation mechanisms--as well as clinical manifestations of SD, including overlaps and differences between migraine aura and stroke, and recent developments in neuromonitoring aimed at better diagnosis and more targeted treatments.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Waves / physiology*
  • Cortical Spreading Depression / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / complications
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Migraine Disorders / therapy
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Stroke / complications
  • Stroke / diagnosis*
  • Stroke / therapy