Towards a dynamical network view of brain ischemia and reperfusion. Part II: a post-ischemic neuronal state space

Author(s): Donald J. DeGracia

The general failure of neuroprotectants in clinical trials of ischemic stroke points to the possibility of a fundamen-tal blind spot in the current conception of ischemic brain injury, the “ischemic cascade”. This is the second in a series of four papers whose purpose is to work towards a revision of the concept of brain ischemia by applying network concepts to develop a bistable model of brain ischemia. We here build the bistable network model of brain ischemia. The central concept is that of a post-ischemic state space. Ischemia, as a quantitative pertur-bation, is envisioned to push the brain through a series of four phenotypes as a function of the amount of ischemia: the homeostatic, preconditioned, delayed neuronal death and necrotic phenotypes. The phenotypes are meta-stable attractors in the landscape of the post-ischemic state space. The sequence of the phenotypes derives from the mutual antagonism between damage mechanisms and stress responses, each conceived as aggregate ensemble variables. The competition between damage mechanisms and stress responses is posited to have the form of a bistability. Application of bistability to brain ischemia is grounded in the incontrovertible fact that post-ischemic neurons face the mutually exclusive decision to either live or die.