Anoxic depolarization is induced by the loss of neuronal selective membrane permeability and the ion gradients across the membrane that are needed to support neuronal activity. Normally, the Na+/K+-ATPase pump maintains the transmembrane gradients of K+ and Na+ ions, but with anoxiac, the supply of energy to drive this pump is lost.
The hallmarks of anoxic depolarization are increased concentrations of extracellular K+ ions, intracellular Na+ and Ca2+ ions, and extracellular glutamate and aspartate. Glutamate and aspartate are normally present as the brain's primary excitatory neurotransmitters, but high concentrations activate a number of downstream apoptotic and necrotic pathways. This results in neuronal dysfunction and death.