Global Ischemia







Advances in medicine and newer life-saving treatments have not only resulted in the saving of an untold number of lives and preservation and restoration of health, but as an unfortunate and unavoidable by-product, they have created syndromes of severe brain damage rarely seen, if at all, prior to these advances in medical therapy. These syndromes include brain death, the persistent vegetative state, locked-in syndrome*, the minimally conscious state, and other examples of a severely compromised quality of life as a result of the inability to repair lost components of the central nervous system. These states provide various levels of wakeful unawareness, a form of permanent unconsciousness. The primary causes of the vegetative state or minimal consciousness come from episodes such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy secondary to a cardiac or pulmonary arrest, near drowning incident, or traumatic brain injuries. These injuries provide significant damage to the higher centers of the brain, and/or the interconnections between the cognitive centers and the relatively preserved brainstem structures that are able to sustain life but not awareness, cognition, and all of the higher cerebral cortical functions that make us who we are[1].

Modern medicine, while preserving facets of peoples lives, has not yet been able to restore full or even partial recovery to these patients. Though some traumatic brain injury/recovery centers have grown up over the past few decades, and they provide some relief and recovery to many patients, science must now focus efforts on protecting vulnerable neural circuits, or even replacing some, to increase the chances that severely brain injured individuals have a chance to live their lives to the fullest.

History of a Recent Breakthrough

Areas of the brain including the hippocampus and other cognitive regions generate new neurons throughout life. This 'neurogenesis' has only recently been discovered and appreciated for its ability to not only sustain neural circuitry and contribute to lifelong learning and memory, but also offering the potential to be tapped for replacing lost brain cells and circuitry following neurological injury and disease. That said, we still have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us to understand how to enhance neurogenesis. With the goal of mobilizing neurogenic areas of the human brain to protect at-risk or replace lost neural circuitry, a great deal of genetic, molecular, cellular and systems neurobiology must be directed toward the massive protection and replacement of at-risk and compromised higher forebrain circuitry components. With enough resources, and directed collaborative efforts in restorative neuroscience, it is not impossible to achieve this. See our news page for the most recent updates on how the GIF is taking direct action to help.

What Global Ischemia Is/Does

A Global Ischemic Event deprives brain tissue and cells of required oxygen and nutrients to sustain survival and contribute to standard neural operating procedures. Strokes, or cerebrovascular accidents, or any anoxic-inducing event (�hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy�, and a variety of terms to denote loss of blood flow to a particular or widespread areas of the central nervous system) can happen to people of any age, including children and young adults. It is usually thought of as being associated with the more mature patient, especially someone at risk of stroke resulting from such things as irregular heart beats or vascular disease. This is not the case; children also have strokes and newborn babies are especially susceptible to oxygen deprivation during the childbirth process. The extent of behavioral loss is directly proportional to the amount of oxygen deprivation following the event � i.e. the longer the brain doesn�t have its needed oxygen and blood-derived nutrient support, the more one is compromised. The brain is a very needy organ when it comes to blood and oxygen dependence, especially the higher forebrain areas that make us the wonderful individuals we are. Loss of blood flow for significant amounts of time can result in widespread loss of brain cells in the higher forebrain areas, including the cerebral cortex. Such a Global Ischemic Event often results in debilitating behavioral losses that rob the person and their loved ones of simple life pleasures.

References : * See The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby.

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