The neurovascular unit - concept review

Acta Physiol (Oxf). 2014 Apr;210(4):790-8. doi: 10.1111/apha.12250.


The cerebral hyperaemia is one of the fundamental mechanisms for the central nervous system homeostasis. Due also to this mechanism, oxygen and nutrients are maintained in satisfactory levels, through vasodilation and vasoconstriction. The brain hyperaemia, or coupling, is accomplished by a group of cells, closely related to each other; called neurovascular unit (NVU). The neurovascular unit is composed by neurones, astrocytes, endothelial cells of blood-brain barrier (BBB), myocytes, pericytes and extracellular matrix components. These cells, through their intimate anatomical and chemical relationship, detect the needs of neuronal supply and trigger necessary responses (vasodilation or vasoconstriction) for such demands. Here, we review the concepts of NVU, the coupling mechanisms and research strategies.

Keywords: cerebral hyperaemia; neurovascular unit; pericytes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Astrocytes / physiology
  • Blood Vessels / physiology
  • Brain / blood supply*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction