Mild Sensory Stimulation Completely Protects the Adult Rodent Cortex from Ischemic Stroke
Despite progress in reducing ischemic stroke damage, complete protection remains elusive. Here we demonstrate that, after permanent occlusion of a major cortical artery (middle cerebral artery; MCA), single whisker stimulation can induce complete protection of the adult rat cortex, but only if administered within a critical time window. Animals that receive early treatment are histologically and behaviorally equivalent to healthy controls and have normal neuronal function. Protection of the cortex clearly requires reperfusion to the ischemic area despite permanent occlusion. Using blood flow imaging and other techniques we found evidence of reversed blood flow into MCA branches from an alternate arterial source via collateral vessels (inter-arterial connections), a potential mechanism for reperfusion. These findings suggest that the cortex is capable of extensive blood flow reorganization and more importantly that mild sensory stimulation can provide complete protection from impending stroke given early intervention. Such non-invasive, non-pharmacological intervention has clear translational potential.