Branching patterns for arterioles and venules of the human cerebral cortex

Brain Res. 2010 Feb 8;1313:62-78. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2009.12.007. Epub 2009 Dec 11.


Branching patterns of microvascular networks influence vascular resistance and allow control of peripheral flow distribution. The aim of this paper was to analyze these branching patterns in human cerebral cortex. Digital three-dimensional images of the microvascular network were obtained from thick sections of India ink-injected human brain by confocal laser microscopy covering a large zone of secondary cortex. A novel segmentation method was used to extract the skeletons of 228 vascular trees (152 arterioles and 76 venules) and measure the diameter at every vertex. The branching patterns (area ratios and angles of bifurcations) of nearly 10,000 bifurcations of cortical vascular trees were analyzed, establishing their statistical properties and structural variations as a function of the vessel nature (arterioles versus venules), the parent vessel topological order or the bifurcation type. We also describe their connectivity and discuss the relevance of the assumed optimal design of vascular branching to account for the complex nature of microvascular architecture. The functional implications of some of these structural variations are considered. The branching patterns established from a large database of a human organ contributes to a better understanding of the bifurcation design and provides an essential reference both for diagnosis and for a future large reconstruction of cerebral microvascular network.

MeSH terms

  • Arterioles / anatomy & histology*
  • Carbon
  • Cerebral Cortex / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / blood supply*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microvessels / anatomy & histology
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Venules / anatomy & histology*


  • chinese ink
  • Carbon