Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Even the smallest stroke can damage brain tissue and impair cognitive function

Date:
December 16, 2012
Source:
University of California - San Diego
Summary:
Blocking a single tiny blood vessel in the brain can harm neural tissue and even alter behavior, a new study in animals has shown. But these consequences can be mitigated by a drug already in use, suggesting treatment that could slow the progress of dementia associated with cumulative damage to miniscule blood vessels that feed brain cells.

A single arteriole, highlighted in yellow, dives from the surface of the brain at the top of the image to penetrate a column of brain tissue. Blocking just one such vessel can damage the brain and lead to a focused cognitive defect, a new study has shown.
Credit: David Kleinfeld Lab, UC San Diego

Blocking a single tiny blood vessel in the brain can harm neural tissue and even alter behavior, a new study from the University of California, San Diego has shown. But these consequences can be mitigated by a drug already in use, suggesting treatment that could slow the progress of dementia associated with cumulative damage to miniscule blood vessels that feed brain cells.

Related Articles


The team reports their results in the Dec. 16 advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience.

"The brain is incredibly dense with vasculature. It was surprising that blocking one small vessel could have a discernable impact on the behavior of a rat," said Andy Y. Shih, lead author of the paper who completed this work as a postdoctoral fellow in physics at UC San Diego. Shih is now an assistant professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Working with rats, Shih and colleagues used laser light to clot blood at precise points within small blood vessels that dive from the surface of the brain to penetrate neural tissue. When they looked at the brains up to a week later, they saw tiny holes reminiscent of the widespread damage often seen when the brains of patients with dementia are examined as a part of an autopsy.

These micro-lesions are too small to be detected with conventional MRI scans, which have a resolution of about a millimeter. Nearly two dozen of these small vessels enter the brain from a square millimeter area of the surface of the brain.

"It's controversial whether that sort of damage has consequences, although the tide of evidence has been growing as human diagnostics improve," said David Kleinfeld, professor of physics and neurobiology, who leads the research group.

To see whether such minute damage could change behavior, the scientists trained thirsty rats to leap from one platform to another in the dark to get water.

The rats readily jump if they can reach the second platform with a paw or their snout, or stretch farther to touch it with their whiskers. Many rats can be trained to rely on a single whisker if the others are clipped, but if they can't feel the far platform, they won't budge.

"The whiskers line up in rows and each one is linked to a specific spot in the brain," Shih said. "By training them to use just one whisker, we were able to distill a behavior down to a very small part of the brain."

When Shih blocked single microvessels feeding a column of brain cells that respond to signals from the remaining whisker, the rats still crossed to the far platform when the gap was small. But when it widened beyond the reach of their snouts, they quit.

The FDA-approved drug memantine, prescribed to slow one aspect of memory decline associated with Alzheimer's disease, ameliorated these effects. Rats that received the drug jumped whisker-wide gaps, and their brains showed fewer signs of damage.

"This data shows us, for the first time, that even a tiny stroke can lead to disability," said Patrick D. Lyden, a co-author of the study and chair of the department of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. "I am afraid that tiny strokes in our patients contribute -- over the long term -- to illness such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease," he said, adding that "better tools will be required to tell whether human patients suffer memory effects from the smallest strokes."

"We used powerful tools from biological physics, many developed in Kleinfeld's laboratory at UC San Diego, to link stroke to dementia on the unprecedented small scale of single vessels and cells," Shih said. "At my new position at MUSC, I plan to work on ways to improve the detection of micro-lesions in human patients with MRI. This way clinicians may be able to diagnose and treat dementia earlier."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - San Diego. The original article was written by Susan Brown. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Andy Y Shih, Pablo Blinder, Philbert S Tsai, Beth Friedman, Geoffrey Stanley, Patrick D Lyden & David Kleinfeld. The smallest stroke: occlusion of one penetrating vessel leads to infarction and a cognitive deficit. Nature Neuroscience, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/nn.3278

Cite This Page:

University of California - San Diego. "Even the smallest stroke can damage brain tissue and impair cognitive function." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121216132503.htm>.
University of California - San Diego. (2012, December 16). Even the smallest stroke can damage brain tissue and impair cognitive function. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121216132503.htm
University of California - San Diego. "Even the smallest stroke can damage brain tissue and impair cognitive function." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121216132503.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Monday, January 26, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

How Technology Is Ruining Snow Days For Students

Newsy (Jan. 25, 2015) More schools are using online classes to keep from losing time to snow days, but it only works if students have Internet access at home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

Weird Things Couples Do When They Lose Their Phone

BuzzFeed (Jan. 24, 2015) Did you back it up? Do you even know how to do that? Video provided by BuzzFeed
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Smart Wristband to Shock Away Bad Habits

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Jan. 23, 2015) A Boston start-up is developing a wristband they say will help users break bad habits by jolting them with an electric shock. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

Amazing Technology Allows Blind Mother to See Her Newborn Son

RightThisMinute (Jan. 23, 2015) Not only is Kathy seeing her newborn son for the first time, but this is actually the first time she has ever seen a baby. Kathy and her sister, Yvonne, have been legally blind since childhood, but thanks to an amazing new technology, eSight glasses, which gives those who are legally blind the ability to see, she got the chance to see the birth of her son. It&apos;s an incredible moment and an even better story. Video provided by RightThisMinute
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins