Neuropsychiatry Laboratory

Lab head: Maxwell Bennett
Location: M02 - Mallet Street Campus

Lab members: M Bennett (head)

The cellular origins of migraine pain: astrocyte spreading depression

Primary supervisor: Maxwell Bennett

Headaches in migraine are thought to be associated with a dilation of cranial blood vessels, particularly those in the dura mater, and an accompanying localized sterile inflammatory response. In many cases the headache phase of migraine is preceded by a condition called aura, in which there is a disturbance of vision, consisting of bright spots and dazzling zigzag lines. This aura is associates with a spreading depression of electrical activity in the cortex. This depression of electrical activity involves a considerable increase in extracellular potassium and a concomitant decrease in extracellular sodium, chloride and calcium. Astrocytes are most likely to be the cell responsible for spreading depression. Calcium waves are propagated by astrocytes, whereas sodium waves (the action potential) are propagated by neurons. Synaptic transmission between astrocytes is mediated by the substance ATP, so that blocking this transmission should block or slow spreading depression. In order to do this, it is first required to identify the mechanism of ATP release and the receptors on which this nucleotide acts.

This project involves an analysis of the mechanism of the spreading depression responsible for both the aura and headache phases of migraine.

U. Reuter, M. Sanchez del Rio & M. Moskowitz (2000) Functional Neurology 15: Suppl. 3, 9-18.
L. Edvinsson (2001) Pharmacology and Toxicology 89(2); 66-73.
E. Hamel (1999) Canadian Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 6: Suppl. A., 9A-14A
M.R. Bennett, L. Farnell & W.G. Gibson (2005) Biophysical Journal 89(4); 2235-2250.
M.R. Bennett, V. Buljan, L. Farnell & W.G. Gibson (2006) Biophysical Journal (EPub)

Discipline: Physiology
Keywords: Primary health care, Melanoma