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I know that turtle brains, particularly those of individual species that hibernate and burrow are particularly resilient to hypoxia and any tissue damage secondary to a hypoxic event.

What are the known molecular mechanisms behind this resiliency? Does it have to do with the ability of their blood to store/release oxygen over extended periods, or is it molecular factors in the neural tissue that protect it from insult?

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

There is a bunch of literature on the topic. A good starting point is probably a short description with lots of references in this thesis (page 8), not to talk about other articles, which pop up in google scholar: 1, 2.

The mechanisms are multifaceted and involve principally decrease in oxygen and ATP demands: reduced neuronal activity, lower density of ion channels (but hyper-polarization of the membranes) and so on. Concerning blood flow: "Brain blood flow was continued or increased, and oxygen and creatine phosphate (PCr) stores offered some immediate protection. As PCr declined, turtle brain became increasingly reliant upon anaerobic glycolysis."

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Nice summary, thanks! – jonsca Jan 25 '14 at 8:19

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