A study from New Zealand on the role the amino acid GABA has on successful recovery from stroke could lead to better stroke recovery therapies.
Strokes are the loss of brain function caused by a disturbance of the blood supply to the brain. High blood pressure is the main risk factor for stroke. Strokes are serious medical emergencies, which lead to brain damage and can result in death. The brain relies on amino acids like glutamate and GABA to function properly, as well as help repair the brain from strokes.
Brain damage—cell death in the brain–from stroke is the leading cause of adult disability. With brain damage, the affected area can’t function. The damaged brain may no longer control one side of the body, may not understand speech, or may have lost the ability to speak.
Post-stroke treatment consists of physical therapy, occupational, and cognitive therapies, helping the patient re-learn the skills lost with the destruction of neurons. But how does GABA fit in?
There is currently no drug treatment to promote brain repair and recovery. But this could change. Stroke-induced cell death occurs due to too much glutamate. This leads to more of the neurotransmitter GABA being released. So can adjusting the release of GABA help the brain recover from stroke?
A study by Andrew Clarkson, (University of Otago, New Zealand), published in Advances in Pharmacological Sciences in 2012, investigated GABA’s role in stroke.
The amino acid GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in our brains, which means it is vital to brain function. Up to 50% of all synapses in our central nervous system use GABA.
GABA’s role in stroke recovery
If the brain is to recover after stroke, it must remap its cognitive functions, and make new connections. Therapies reducing GABA activity improves neuron activity. The brain undergoes structural changes, which can improve the use of affected limbs.
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