Brainstem discovered as important relay site after stroke

Around 16,000 people in Switzerland suffer a stroke every year. Often the result of a sudden occlusion of a vessel supplying the brain, it is the most frequent live-threatening neurological disorder. In most cases, it has far-reaching consequences for survivors. Often the stroke sufferers have to cope with handicaps and rehabilitation is a long process.

The brain does, however, have a "considerable capacity for regeneration" explains Lukas Bachmann from the Brain Research Institute of the University of Zurich. As member of Professor Martin Schwab's research team, he found that the brainstem, the oldest region in the brain, could play an important role in recovery. The results have now been published in "The Journal of Neuroscience".

The healthy half of the brain assumes control

A stroke in the frequently leads to motor constraints of one half of the body, to what is known as hemiparesis. This is due to the loss of neuron pathways which transmit signals from the to the spinal cord. As these pathways are crossed, the side of the body contralateral to the affected half of the brain is affected. The major impairments at the beginning are often only temporary and stroke sufferers can sometimes stage an amazing recovery. "The side of the body affected is increasingly controlled by the ipsilateral side of the cortex, i.e. the healthy side", explains Lukas Bachmann. As the neuron pathways are crossed, this raised the following question for the neuroscientists: by which pathway are the signals rerouted from the to the ipsilateral parts of the spinal cord?

Sprouting of neurons from the brainstem

In their study in mice the researchers in Martin Schwab's team now demonstrate that the brainstem probably plays a key role in the rerouting of neural impulses. Images of the brain show that after a major stroke nerve fibers from specific core regions of the brain sprout into the area of the that had lost its input after a stroke. "At the same time, more fibers sprout from the intact cortex into these same regions of the ", continues Lukas Bachmann. These changes in the neuronal circuits may mediate the non-crossed flow of nerve impulses after a stroke. "This could turn out to be a key mechanism which facilitates recovery after a ", says the brain researcher. The scientists now want to use these findings to steer the sprouting of neurons in various areas of the by means of targeted therapy to maximise the recovery of motor functions.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Sleep apnea common among stroke-related brainstem injuries

Feb 12, 2014

People whose brainstems are affected by their stroke have a significantly higher prevalence of sleep apnea than those who have stroke-related injury elsewhere in the brain, according to research presented at the American ...

How neurons control fine motor behavior of the arm

Jan 31, 2014

Motor commands issued by the brain to activate arm muscles take two different routes. As the research group led by Professor Silvia Arber at the Basel University Biozentrum and the Friedrich Miescher Institute ...

Rebuilding the brain after stroke

Feb 13, 2014

Enhancing the brain's inherent ability to rebuild itself after a stroke with molecular components of stem cells holds enormous promise for treating the leading cause of long-term disability in adults.

Don't let botox go to your head…or should you?

Jan 08, 2013

Injecting botox into the arm muscles of stroke survivors, with severe spasticity, changes electrical activity in the brain and may assist with longer-term recovery, according to new research.

Molecule found that inhibits recovery from stroke

Jul 27, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Researchers at UCLA have identified a novel molecule in the brain that, after stroke, blocks the formation of new connections between neurons. As a result, it limits the brain’s recovery. In a mouse ...

Recommended for you

See-through sensors open new window into the brain

1 hour ago

(Medical Xpress)—Developing invisible implantable medical sensor arrays, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers has overcome a major technological hurdle in researchers' efforts to understand ...

User comments