Neurovascular coupling in the normal brain and in hypertension, stroke, and Alzheimer disease

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006 Jan;100(1):328-35. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00966.2005.


The brain is critically dependent on a continuous supply of blood to function. Therefore, the cerebral vasculature is endowed with neurovascular control mechanisms that assure that the blood supply of the brain is commensurate to the energy needs of its cellular constituents. The regulation of cerebral blood flow (CBF) during brain activity involves the coordinated interaction of neurons, glia, and vascular cells. Thus, whereas neurons and glia generate the signals initiating the vasodilation, endothelial cells, pericytes, and smooth muscle cells act in concert to transduce these signals into carefully orchestrated vascular changes that lead to CBF increases focused to the activated area and temporally linked to the period of activation. Neurovascular coupling is disrupted in pathological conditions, such as hypertension, Alzheimer disease, and ischemic stroke. Consequently, CBF is no longer matched to the metabolic requirements of the tissue. This cerebrovascular dysregulation is mediated in large part by the deleterious action of reactive oxygen species on cerebral blood vessels. A major source of cerebral vascular radicals in models of hypertension and Alzheimer disease is the enzyme NADPH oxidase. These findings, collectively, highlight the importance of neurovascular coupling to the health of the normal brain and suggest a therapeutic target for improving brain function in pathologies associated with cerebrovascular dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / physiopathology*
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / innervation
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Neurons*
  • Stroke / physiopathology*
  • Vasomotor System