Insulin-like growth factor-1 lowers spreading depression susceptibility and reduces oxidative stress


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Richard P. Kraig, Department of Neurology, MC2030, The University of Chicago Medical Center, 5841 South Maryland Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA. E-mail:


J. Neurochem. (2012) 122, 221–229.


Spreading depression (SD), the likely cause of migraine aura and perhaps migraine, is triggered by widespread and unfettered neuronal hyperexcitability. Migraine and the initiating hyperexcitability of seizure, which involve oxidative stress (OS), are likely interrelated. Environmental enrichment (EE) decreases seizure and can reduce migraine. EE’s well-characterized neuroprotective effect involves insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). Accordingly, we asked if IGF-1 could mitigate the hyperexcitability that initiates SD using rat hippocampal slice cultures. We demonstrate that IGF-1 significantly decreased SD susceptibility and related OS. We mimicked OS of SD and observed that IGF-1 abolished hyperexcitability from OS. Application of an antioxidant significantly decreased SD susceptibility and co-administration of an antioxidant with IGF-1 produced no additive effect, whereas an oxidizer significantly increased SD, and this effect was abrogated by IGF-1. Moreover, IGF-1 significantly decreased baseline OS, despite seemingly paradoxically increasing CA3 bursting. These results suggest that IGF-1 increased endogenous antioxidants to levels sufficient to buffer against the OS of SD. Insulin similarly mitigated SD susceptibility, but required a far greater dose. Since brain IGF-1 increases with EE, and, like insulin, independently functions as an EE mimetic, we suggest that EE mimetics are a novel source of therapeutics for SD, and by extension, migraine.