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Reaction-diffusion waves in neuronal tissue and the window of cortical excitability. (English) Zbl 1072.92022
Summary: Spreading depression (SD) is a dynamic wave phenomenon occurring in all gray matter regions of the central nervous systems (CNS). It is characterized by a sudden breakdown of neuronal activity and accompanied by a massive influx and efflux of ions across the membrane of neurons. The retina is a constituent of the CNS in which one can easily observe the dynamic behavior of the SD wave fronts, because SD changes the optical properties of the tissue. There is ample evidence that SD belongs to the self-organization processes due to the coupling of reaction with diffusion in an excitable medium. It is assumed that the occurrence of SD is associated with some neurological symptoms of migraine with aura. A frequently reported aura symptom is a traveling visual blind region (scotoma) with a preceding figure of scintillating line segments. The characteristic form and development of the scotoma suggests that the underlying phenomenon is a wave propagating through the primary visual cortex, most likely the cortical spreading depression.
We discuss similarities between SD waves and the migraine aura on the basis of properties of reaction-diffusion waves known from other excitable media. In particular, the propagation velocities, the shape and the dynamics of the waves are compared with each other. We find that the assumption of the neuronal tissue to be in a state of only weak excitability explains some properties of the migraine aura, such as the confined appearance and its propagation with a stable velocity.

92C50 Medical applications (general)
92C20 Neural biology
35K57 Reaction-diffusion equations
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