Preconditioning is a phenomenon in which brief episodes of a sublethal insult induce robust protection against subsequent lethal injuries. Preconditioning has been observed in multiple organisms and can occur in the brain as well as other tissues. Extensive animal studies suggest that the brain can be preconditioned to resist acute injuries, such as ischemic stroke, neonatal hypoxia/ischemia, surgical brain injury, trauma, and agents that are used in models of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Effective preconditioning stimuli are numerous and diverse, ranging from transient ischemia, hypoxia, hyperbaric oxygen, hypothermia and hyperthermia, to exposure to neurotoxins and pharmacological agents. The phenomenon of "cross-tolerance," in which a sublethal stress protects against a different type of injury, suggests that different preconditioning stimuli may confer protection against a wide range of injuries. Research conducted over the past few decades indicates that brain preconditioning is complex, involving multiple effectors such as metabolic inhibition, activation of extra- and intracellular defense mechanisms, a shift in the neuronal excitatory/inhibitory balance, and reduction in inflammatory sequelae. An improved understanding of brain preconditioning should help us identify innovative therapeutic strategies that prevent or at least reduce neuronal damage in susceptible patients. In this review, we focus on the experimental evidence of preconditioning in the brain and systematically survey the models used to develop paradigms for neuroprotection, and then discuss the clinical potential of brain preconditioning.

Stetler, Leak, Gan, Li, Zhang, Hu, Jing, Chen, (2014). Preconditioning provides neuroprotection in models of CNS disease: paradigms and clinical significance. Progress in neurobiology, 2014 Mar;114():58-83. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24389580