After a severe episode of ischemia, traumatic brain injury (TBI) or epilepsy, it is typical to find necrotic cell death within the injury core. In addition, a substantial number of neurons in regions surrounding the injury core have been observed to die via the programmed cell death (PCD) pathways due to secondary effects derived from the various types of insults. Apart from the cell loss in the injury core, cell death in regions surrounding the injury core may also contribute to significant losses in neurological functions. In fact, it is the injured neurons in these regions around the injury core that treatments are targeting to preserve. In this review, we present our cumulated understanding of stress-activated signaling pathways and apoptotic pathways in the research areas of ischemic injury, TBI and epilepsy and that gathered from concerted research efforts in oncology and other diseases. However, it is obvious that our understanding of these pathways in the context of acute brain injury is at its infancy stage and merits further investigation. Hopefully, this added research effort will provide a more detailed knowledge from which better therapeutic strategies can be developed to treat these acute brain injuries.
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