Imaging the Remodeling of Individual Synapses and Vessels in the Living Brain after Stroke

Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability, often rendering its victims with profound impairments in sensory, motor or cognitive function. Fortunately, many individuals experience some partial form of recovery over the ensuing weeks, months and years after stroke. This recovery of function is thought to be dependent on how well surviving brain cells (called neurons) and their connections adapt and form new circuits. However, the nature by which these neurons change in a living organism and the factors that regulate these changes, has not been determined. Craig Brown’s research is aimed at determining how the parts of the neuron that receive information (dendrites) and those that transmit information to other cells (axons) reorganize after stroke. Given that neurons are critically dependent on sufficient levels of blood flow to survive and flourish after stroke, he is also examining structural changes in brain blood vessels and their delivery of blood to vulnerable regions of the brain. He will then examine how therapeutic interventions, such as movement-induced therapies or sensory/electrical stimulation, influence brain reorganization. A better understanding of how the brain adapts to injury and the factors that regulate these process will pave the way for future therapies to optimize recovery of function after stroke.