Recently, TV news reporter Serene Branson suffered an episode of slurred, unintelligible speech and facial weakness while reporting live at the Grammy Awards. This event was a frightening demonstration of an evolving neurological process. The question was what was the process?
Many brain injuries including stroke, migraine, seizure and concussion initiate a cascade of events known as "spreading depression." These events are based on an electrical imbalance resulting in transient symptoms. In the case of stroke, the symptoms are often permanent.
Ms. Branson's symptoms were part of a condition known as migraine with aura. Stroke-like symptoms are the prodrome of a severe headache to follow within 20 to 30 minutes. These striking symptoms fortunately subsided.
Stroke symptoms of abnormal speech, facial asymmetry, and weakness on one side of the body require urgent medical attention. Although the eventual diagnosis may be more benign, any delay can increase the likelihood of permanent deficit.
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