Brain Tsunami: Cortical Spreading Depolarization

  • Brain Tsunami: Cortical Spreading Depolarizations
    The phrase "time is brain" could take on new meaning when applied to the treatment of subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of bleeding stroke. Brain tsunamis, scientifically known as cortical spreading depolarizations, are traveling waves of brain dysfunction that spread out from an injury site and contribute to worse outcomes in patients.

    We worked with researcher Jed Hartings, PhD, on his publication of a ground-breaking study of what happens immediately after a subarachnoid hemorrhage occurs in an animal model. The team's findings of secondary damage within 6 hours were published in the October 2017 issue of the prestigious journal Brain.
  • The study found that bleeding onto the surface of the brain (a subarachnoid clot) can directly cause the death (infarct) of the affected brain gray matter – the cerebral cortex. Progression to death is mediated by repetitive brain tsunamis (cortical spreading depolarizations), shown here by blue waves and arrows, that spread through the cortex. Brain tsunamis reduce blood supply to the brain (cortical spreading ischemia) and impair brain function, resulting in flatline (terminal depolarization) as the tissue dies. Brain tsunamis were first described in 1944 by Aristides Leão and today are measured in patients with electrodes placed on the brain surface. (Illustration by Tonya Hines, © Mayfield Clinic. Photographs of Professor Leão and original note used with permission from Academia Brasileira de Neurologia and Academia Brasileira de Ciências, respectively.)

  • To amplify his research, we wrote a news release for the Mayfield Foundation (a funder of Dr. Hartings' research) and shared the journal article strategically on Twitter on Facebook. These public relations efforts were picked up by science news aggregators, such as Medical Xpress, which helped spread word of the publication, ultimately increasing the article's Altmetrics Attention Score to the top 5%.