Spreading depression or depolarization is a large-scale pathological brain phenomenon related to migraine, stroke, hemorrhage and traumatic brain injury. Once initiated, spreading depression propagates across gray matter extruding potassium and other active molecules, collapsing the resting membrane electro-chemical gradient of cells leading to spike inactivation and cellular swelling, and propagates independently of synaptic transmission. We demonstrate the modulation, suppression and prevention of spreading depression utilizing applied transcortical DC electric fields in brain slices, measured with intrinsic optical imaging and potassium dye epifluorescence. We experimentally observe a surface-positive electric field induced forcing of spreading depression propagation to locations in cortex deeper than the unmodulated propagation path, whereby further propagation is confined and arrested even after field termination. The opposite surface-negative electric field polarity produces an increase in propagation velocity and a confinement of the wave to more superficial layers of cortex than the unmodulated propagation path. These field polarities are of opposite sign to the polarity that blocks neuronal spiking and seizures, and are consistent with biophysical models of spreading depression. The results demonstrate the potential feasibility of electrical control and prevention of spreading depression.
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