Tickling a rat’s whiskers prevents brain damage

Layout of the whisker sensory pathway. (2008)

The Healing Power of Touch: Tickling Reduces Stroke-Induced Brain Damage in Rats
Tickling a rat’s whiskers after it has a stroke prevents brain damage
July 11, 2011
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-healing-power-of-touch

A team led by professor Ron Frostig of the University of California, Irvine, induced strokes in rats by blocking an artery to the brain. The researchers then stimulated their whiskers, in­tending to measure the rats’ brain activity to learn how the stroke damage affected sensory functions. Instead they found that if they vibrated a single whisker within two hours of the stroke, neurons that ordinarily would have died continued to function normally, and the rats ended up with no paralysis or sensory deficits. The exact mechanism of the protective effect is not clear, but it seems to involve a rerouting of blood through undamaged veins in the brain.

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