, Volume 115, Issue 2, pp 319-324

Self-induced splitting of spiral-shaped spreading depression waves in chicken retina

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 Spreading depression (SD) of electroencephalographic activity is a dynamic wave phenomenon in the central nervous system (CNS). The retina, especially the isolated chicken retina, is an excellent constituent of the CNS in which to observe the dynamic behavior of the SD wave fronts, because it changes its optical properties during a SD attack. The waves become visible as milky fronts on a black background. It is still controversial what the basic mechanistic steps of SD are, but certainly SD belongs to the self-organization phenomena occurring in neuronal tissue. In this work, spiral-shaped wave fronts are analyzed using digital video imaging techniques. We report how the inner end of the wave front, the spiral tip, breaks away repeatedly. This separation process is associated with a Z-shaped trajectory (extension ∼1.2 mm) that is described by the tip over one spiral revolution (period 2.45±0.1 min). The Z-shaped trajectory does not remain fixed, but performs a complex motion across the retina with each period. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that established imaging methods have been applied to the study of the two-dimensional features of SD wave propagation and to obtaining quantitative data of their dynamics. Since these methods do not interfere with the tissue, it is possible to observe the intrinsic properties of the phenomenon without any external influence.

Received: 1 August 1996 / Accepted: 5 November 1996