Integrative regulation of human brain blood flow

J Physiol. 2014 Mar 1;592(5):841-59. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2013.268953. Epub 2014 Jan 6.


Herein, we review mechanisms regulating cerebral blood flow (CBF), with specific focus on humans. We revisit important concepts from the older literature and describe the interaction of various mechanisms of cerebrovascular control. We amalgamate this broad scope of information into a brief review, rather than detailing any one mechanism or area of research. The relationship between regulatory mechanisms is emphasized, but the following three broad categories of control are explicated: (1) the effect of blood gases and neuronal metabolism on CBF; (2) buffering of CBF with changes in blood pressure, termed cerebral autoregulation; and (3) the role of the autonomic nervous system in CBF regulation. With respect to these control mechanisms, we provide evidence against several canonized paradigms of CBF control. Specifically, we corroborate the following four key theses: (1) that cerebral autoregulation does not maintain constant perfusion through a mean arterial pressure range of 60-150 mmHg; (2) that there is important stimulatory synergism and regulatory interdependence of arterial blood gases and blood pressure on CBF regulation; (3) that cerebral autoregulation and cerebrovascular sensitivity to changes in arterial blood gases are not modulated solely at the pial arterioles; and (4) that neurogenic control of the cerebral vasculature is an important player in autoregulatory function and, crucially, acts to buffer surges in perfusion pressure. Finally, we summarize the state of our knowledge with respect to these areas, outline important gaps in the literature and suggest avenues for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Blood Flow Velocity / physiology
  • Blood Pressure / physiology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Feedback, Physiological / physiology
  • Humans
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange / physiology*