The area postrema: a brain monitor and integrator of systemic autonomic state

Neuroscientist. 2008 Apr;14(2):182-94. doi: 10.1177/1073858407311100. Epub 2007 Dec 13.


The area postrema is a medullary structure lying at the base of the fourth ventricle. The area postrema's privileged location outside of the blood-brain barrier make this sensory circumventricular organ a vital player in the control of autonomic functions by the central nervous system. By virtue of its lack of tight junctions between endothelial cells in this densely vascularized structure and the presence of fenestrated capillaries, peptide and other physiological signals borne in the blood have direct access to neurons that project to brain areas with important roles in the autonomic control of many physiological systems, including the cardiovascular system and systems controlling feeding and metabolism. However, the area postrema is not simply a conduit through which signals flow into the brain, but it is now being recognized as the initial site of integration for these signals as they enter the circuitry of the central nervous system.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Area Postrema / cytology
  • Area Postrema / physiology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Brain Chemistry
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Humans
  • Metabolism
  • Neural Pathways / anatomy & histology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology