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Functional stimulation is accompanied by increases in regional cerebral blood flow which exceed metabolic demands under normal circumstances, but it is unknown whether functional stimulation is beneficial or detrimental in the setting of acute ischemia. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of forepaw stimulation during temporary focal ischemia on neurological and tissue outcome in a rat model of reversible focal forebrain ischemia.Sprague-Dawley rats were prepared for temporary occlusion of the right middle cerebral artery (MCA) using the filament model. Cerebral blood flow in the MCA territory was continuously monitored with a laser-Doppler flowmeter. Subdermal electrodes were inserted into the dorsal forepaw to stimulate either the forepaw ipsilateral or contralateral to the occlusion starting 1 minute into ischemia and continuing throughout the ischemic period. A neurological evaluation was undertaken after 24 hours of reperfusion, and animals were then euthanized and brain slices stained with 2,3,5-triphenyltetrazolium chloride. Cortical and striatal damage was measured separately.The cortical and striatal infarct volumes were both significantly reduced in the contralateral stimulated group compared with the ipsilateral stimulated group (48% total reduction). There were no statistically significant differences in the neurobehavioral scores between the 2 groups, or in the laser-Doppler flow measurements from the MCA core.Functional stimulation of ischemic tissue may decrease tissue damage and improve outcome from stroke. Although the precise mechanism of this effect remains to be determined, functional stimulation could readily be translated to clinical practice.