A quantitative analysis of cell-specific contributions and the role of anesthetics to the neurovascular coupling

Neuroimage. 2020 Jul 15;215:116827. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116827. Epub 2020 Apr 11.


The neurovascular coupling (NVC) connects neuronal activity to hemodynamic responses in the brain. This connection is the basis for the interpretation of functional magnetic resonance imaging data. Despite the central role of this coupling, we lack detailed knowledge about cell-specific contributions and our knowledge about NVC is mainly based on animal experiments performed during anesthesia. Anesthetics are known to affect neuronal excitability, but how this affects the vessel diameters is not known. Due to the high complexity of NVC data, mathematical modeling is needed for a meaningful analysis. However, neither the relevant neuronal subtypes nor the effects of anesthetics are covered by current models. Here, we present a mathematical model including GABAergic interneurons and pyramidal neurons, as well as the effect of an anesthetic agent. The model is consistent with data from optogenetic experiments from both awake and anesthetized animals, and it correctly predicts data from experiments with different pharmacological modulators. The analysis suggests that no downstream anesthetic effects are necessary if one of the GABAergic interneuron signaling pathways include a Michaelis-Menten expression. This is the first example of a quantitative model that includes both the cell-specific contributions and the effect of an anesthetic agent on the NVC.

Keywords: Blood oxygen level dependent (BOLD) response; Cerebral hemodynamics; Functional hyperemia; Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI); Mathematical modeling; Systems biology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • GABAergic Neurons / drug effects
  • GABAergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Interneurons / drug effects
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Neurovascular Coupling / drug effects
  • Neurovascular Coupling / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Pyramidal Cells / drug effects
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*


  • Anesthetics