In animal models of transients ischemia, selective vulnerability and delayed neuronal death in the hippocampus have been extensively described. However, little is known about selective damage in the neocortex and the thalamus, even though deficits in sensorimotor function are common in humans surviving hypoxic/ischemic episodes. This study investigated the neurodegenerative effects of transient ischemia in the gerbil neocortex and thalamus with use of Cresyl Violet and silver impregnation staining methods. In addition, immunohistochemistry of an astrocyte-associated protein, glial fibrillary acidic protein, was used to assess the astrocytic response to ischemia. Pyramidal cells in layers 3 and 6 of somatosensory and auditory cortex were exceptionally sensitive to ischemia, whereas the neurons in layers 2, 4 and 5 were more resistant to ischemia. More pyramidal cells were killed in layer 3 than in layer 6. This bilaminar pattern of neuronal death developed after periods of ischemia ranging from 3 to 10 min and was identifiable at post-ischemic survival times of 6 h to one month. Somatodendritic argyrophilia in the neocortex was identified as early as 6-12 h after 5 min of ischemia. The greatest number of degenerating cortical neurons were stained two to four days after ischemia. With 10 min of ischemia, argyrophilic neunites and neurons were also found as early as 8 h after the occlusion. The most extensive damage was noted in the ventroposterior nucleus, the medial geniculate nucleus, and the intralaminar nuclei two to four days after ischemia. Thus, selective vulnerability and delayed neuronal death are evident in both the neocortex and the thalamus after transient ischemia. These regions need to be examined when considering the efficacy of potential neuroprotective drugs.
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