Neurovascular coupling in the mammalian brain

Jessica A. Filosa, Víctor M. Blanco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Normal brain function requires proper supply of oxygen and glucose in a timely and local manner. This is achieved through an orchestrated intercellular communication between neurones, astrocytes and microvessels that results in a rapid and restricted increase in cerebral blood flow, a process known as neurovascular coupling. Astrocytic end-feet make close contacts with neuronal synapses and blood vessels and, given their ability to release vasoactive signals following neuronal activation, have been recognized as key intermediaries in the neurovascular response. Both dilating and constricting signals appear to be released from astrocytes upon increases in intracellular Ca2+ concentration, and both dilatation and constriction of brain vessels have been observed in previous studies. In this article, we discuss the various astrocyte-derived vasodilating and vasoconstricting signals, their interactions and effects on astrocytes and vascular smooth muscle cells, and suggest the importance of the intrinsic properties of the latter cell type on the overall neurovascular response. We present a working model in which the rise in astrocytic Ca2+ following neuronal activation leads not only to the rapid activation of calcium-activated K+ channels in astrocytic end-feet, but also to their modulation by metabolites of the arachidonic acid pathway, which in general have been proposed to act on vascular smooth muscle cells rather than on astrocytes. We propose that this latter mechanism may in turn modulate K+ signalling from astrocytes to smooth muscle cells, influencing the overall effects of the vasodilating and vasoconstricting signals released during neuronal activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)641-646
Number of pages6
JournalExperimental Physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Physiology (medical)


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