Ethanol modulates the neurovascular coupling

Neurotoxicology. 2013 Jan;34:95-104. doi: 10.1016/j.neuro.2012.10.017. Epub 2012 Nov 14.


Despite some evidence of the underlying molecular mechanisms the neuronal basis of ethanol-induced effects on the neurovascular coupling that forms the BOLD (blood oxygenation level dependent) signal is poorly understood. In a recent fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) study monitoring ethanol-induced changes of the BOLD signal a reduction of the amplitude and a prolongation of the BOLD signal were observed. However, the BOLD signal is assumed to consist of a complex superposition of different underlying signals. To gain insight how ethanol influences stimulus efficacy, oxygen extraction, transit time and vessel-related parameters the fMRI time series from the sensori-motor and the visual cortex were analyzed using the balloon model. The results show a region-dependent decrease of the stimulus efficacy to trigger a post-stimulus neurovascular response as well as a prolongation of the transit time through the venous compartment. Oxygen extraction, feedback mechanisms and other vessel-related parameters were not affected. The results may be interpreted as follows: the overall mechanisms of the neurovascular coupling are still acting well at the moderate ethanol level of about 0.8‰ (in particular the vessel-related parts), but the potency to evoke a neurovascular response is already compromised most obviously in the supplementary motor area responsible for complex synchronizing and planning processes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Flow Velocity / drug effects
  • Brain Mapping / methods
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / administration & dosage
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / adverse effects*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / blood
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / drug effects*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Activity
  • Motor Cortex / blood supply*
  • Motor Cortex / drug effects*
  • Motor Cortex / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Oxygen / blood
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / blood supply*
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects*
  • Visual Cortex / metabolism
  • Young Adult


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol
  • Oxygen