January 03, 2007
Brain Gray Matter Holes Caused By Silent Strokes?

The brain is going to be the hardest organ in the body to rejuvenate. But prevention of damage is more important than repair because loss of brain cells means loss of information. Replacement of brain cells won't give you back lost memories. One way we can prevent brain cell loss is to prevent blockages in small arteries in the brain.

A team of UC San Diego physicists and neuroscientists has discovered a bottleneck in the network of blood vessels in the brain that makes it vulnerable to strokes. The finding may explain the origin of the puzzling damage to the brain’s gray matter often detected in brain scans, especially among the elderly.

In the study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers used a laser technique they developed to precisely monitor changes in blood flow resulting from an induced blockage in a tiny artery, or arteriole, in the brains of anesthetized rats. They found that the penetrating arterioles, which connect the blood vessels on the brain’s surface with deeper blood vessels, are a vulnerable link in the network.

“The blood vessels on the surface of the brain are like a collection of city streets that provide multiple paths to get somewhere,” explained David Kleinfeld, a professor of physics at UCSD, who led the team. “If one of the vessels is blocked, blood flow quickly rearranges itself. On the other hand, the penetrating arterioles are more like freeways. When blocked, the blood flow is stopped or slowed significantly in a large region round the clot.”

Many more people have had strokes than are aware of it. So lots of old people suffer from reduced cognitive ability and loss of memory due to silent strokes.

The obstruction of blood flow resulted in damage to the surrounding brain area, which the researchers report resembled damage seen in the brains of humans and thought to be the result of “silent strokes.” Silent strokes have attracted attention recently because magnetic resonance imaging has made it possible to follow changes in the brains of individuals as they age. MRI scans have revealed that, over time, small holes accumulate in the gray matter of many patients, including those who have no obvious behavioral signs of a stroke.

I do not want to get lots of holes in my brain gray matter as the years go by.

The researchers say their results support the hypothesis, made by clinicians, that the penetrating arterioles may be the location of small strokes that cause the death of sections of brain tissue in humans. The accumulation of damage may lead to memory loss, and may be a risk factor for having a larger stroke, according to Pat Lyden, a professor of neurosciences at UCSD’s School of Medicine and head of the UCSD Stroke Center.

Development of youthful artery stem cells that can replace aged stem cells could help repair brain arteries and by doing so avoid silent strokes that wipe out pockets of neurons in the brain. Genetic engineering of the liver to improve blood cholesterol could also reduce the risk of brain damage from stroke and poor circulation.

We need faster progress on stem cell research. The survival of our brain cells is at stake.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 January 03 10:53 PM  Brain Aging

Doug said at January 5, 2007 8:14 AM:
I do not want to get lots of holes in my brain gray matter as the years go by.
Me neither, Randall, me neither. :-)
Glenn said at October 22, 2007 3:56 AM:

My 81 year old father recently manifested this neurological sign. His cognition isn't impaired, but he now suffers from dizziness to the point that it is difficult to walk. He was sent home from the hospital after 2 weeks, and seems to be improving, but this apparently happened a couple of years ago as well. Anyways, I found this article after doing a search on this phenomenon. Doesn't seem to be much in the google database on this, though.



Johnna Atkins said at March 17, 2009 5:38 PM:

I am trying to understand what is wrong with me. I apparently had a stroke after a blast in Iraq, I now have a hole in my brain as well as some short term memory problems and comprehension issues. It also did some damage to my spinal cord - Could this hole in my brain be caused from the stroke that I didn't even know I had? And will more holes now follow? I have also developed cyst - not only on my brain, but throughout my body - I can't help but wonder what lies ahead for me - and will my quality of life deminish fast?

I have tried to research this "hole in the brain" business, but this is the only site I have found to discuss it - could you help me to understand or point me in the right direction?


Kate Jukes said at September 28, 2010 2:55 PM:


Thank you for serving our country. Whether or not we believe in the rightness of the invasion of Iraq, our service people deserve better than they're getting. I'm in the medical industry and it has recently been brought to the government's attention that severe concussions \ may not kill you, but they can do "unseen" damage, or even damage that can be seen on MRIs, etc. You may have had a brain damaging concussion. (Especially, since you said it was from a "blast.") Unfortunately, the current stance with the military is that concussions are incidental and minor.

I'm dying of a terminal disease (won't bore you with details) so I pretty much spend all of my time researching various things for various people, some of whom I know, some I don't! If you'd like me to look into your condition, you can become my Facebook friend (Kate Jukes(Kathy Kaae). Look me up and we can get a bit more info and figure out what's going on. (My doctor always says that I only go to her for a "second opinion" since I've pretty much diagnosed myself by the time I see her. I'm more often wrong with my own diagnoses, but usually right with other folks.) Anyway, I'd love to help...friend me!

Kate Jukes

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