Takotsubo Syndrome and the Brain-Heart Connection: Frederic Schaper, MD, PhD


The instructor in neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital talked about research exploring takotsubo syndrome, a heart condition often triggered by emotional or physical stressors, and its relationship with brain lesions. [WATCH TIME: 5 minutes]

WATCH TIME: 5 minutes

"The bidirectional relationship of the heart and the brain is very interesting and I’m happy to see that it's getting more and more attention."

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also known colloquially as broken-heart syndrome, is classified as an acute type of heart failure that can lead to unexpected death. The syndrome is often caused by extreme emotional or physical distress, from a life event such as a divorce (or even an extreme surprise) or natural events such as earthquakes, which can cause a surge of the sympathetic nervous system. Recent research shows that takotsubo cardiomyopathy also can occur because of brain lesions, potentially providing more insight into regions of the brain and networks involved in the nervous system control of the heart.

A recent literature review analysis showed takotsubo cardiomyopathy caused by lesions could be mapped to a brain network.1 Among 72 cases of lesion-induced takotsubo cardiomyopathy from 61 studies, lesions occurred in multiple heterogeneous locations across different cortical lobes and subcortex of left (n = 19), right (n = 25) or both hemispheres (n = 28). Notably, these same lesion areas were part of a specific brain network functionally connected with the vagal nucleus in the medulla (P <.01). In a repeated analysis that excluded lesions directly involving the medulla, investigators observed a similar result produced (P <.05).

Lead author Frederic Schaper, MD, PhD, an instructor in neurology at Brigham and Women's Hospital, presented these findings at the 2024 American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting, held April 13-18, in Denver, Colorado. Schaper sat down with NeurologyLive® at the meeting to discuss some of the emotional and physical triggers that can lead to takotsubo syndrome. He also talked about the role of the medulla in the heart condition and how research on brain lesions helps to understand takotsubo syndrome.

Click here for more coverage of AAN 2024.

1. Schaper F, Kim K, Morton-Dutton M, et al. Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy: A Brain Network that Breaks Your Heart. Presented at: 2024 AAN Annual Meeting; April 13-18; Denver, CO.
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