Spreading depolarizations, sometimes called brain tsunamis, are massive waves of electrical activity that travel across the brain. They occur in a remarkably broad swath of neurologic disease. They are the mechanism of the migraine aura, where they do not appear to leave lasting effects. But they also occur in epilepsy and in conditions of brain injury, including traumatic brain injury, ischemic stroke, aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, and intracerebral hemorrhage. In these conditions, spreading depolarizations can cause or increase injury.
We know spreading depolarizations occur, with surprising frequency, in humans. But we are only beginning to understand their mechanisms and their consequences. Spreading depolarizations are up to three times larger than seizures, and they are likely to be more common yet are much less known. A goal of the spreading depolarization research community is to increase awareness of these brain tsunamis in the medical community while simultaneously increasing the understanding of how they work.
This year’s International Conference on Spreading Depolarizations (iCSD) will take place in the United States—specifically in Salt Lake City, Utah. We will host leaders in spreading depolarization from around the world, and the conference will be hosted by our own Dr. KC Brennan, whose group here at the University of Utah is has brought significant advances to the field.