Role of cerebral glutamate in post-stroke epileptogenesis

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Stroke is one of the most important causes of acquired epilepsy in the adult population. While factors such as cortical involvement and haemorrhage have been associated with increased seizure risk, the mechanisms underlying the development of epilepsy after stroke remain unclear. One hypothesised mechanism is an excitotoxic effect of abnormal glutamate release following a stroke. Cerebral extracellular glutamate levels are known to rise in the setting of acute stroke, and numerous studies have implicated glutamate in the pathogenesis of seizures and epilepsy, both through direct measurement of glutamate from the epileptic brain and by analysis of receptors and transporters central to glutamate homeostasis. While experimental evidence suggests the cellular injury induced by glutamate exposure may lead to development of an epileptic phenotype, there is little direct data linking the rise in glutamate during stroke with the later development of epilepsy. Clinical research in this field has been hampered by the lack of non-invasive methods to measure cerebral glutamate. However, with the increasing availability of 7T MRI technology, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy is able to better resolve glutamate from other chemical species at this field strength, and Glutamate Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (GluCEST) imaging has been applied to localise epileptic foci in non-lesional focal epilepsy. This review outlines the evidence implicating a pivotal role for cerebral glutamate in the development of post-stroke epilepsy, and exploring the role of MRI in studying glutamate as a biomarker and therefore its suitability as a molecular target for anti-epileptogenic therapies. We hypothesise that the rise in glutamate levels in the setting of acute stroke is a clinically relevant biomarker for the development of post-stroke epilepsy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102069
Number of pages6
JournalNeuroImage: Clinical
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2019


  • Epilepsy
  • glutamate
  • MRI
  • MRS
  • Stroke

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