Quantifying cerebrospinal fluid dynamics: A review of human neuroimaging contributions to CSF physiology and neurodegenerative disease

Neurobiol Dis. 2022 Aug;170:105776. doi: 10.1016/j.nbd.2022.105776. Epub 2022 May 25.


Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), predominantly produced in the ventricles and circulating throughout the brain and spinal cord, is a key protective mechanism of the central nervous system (CNS). Physical cushioning, nutrient delivery, metabolic waste, including protein clearance, are key functions of the CSF in humans. CSF volume and flow dynamics regulate intracranial pressure and are fundamental to diagnosing disorders including normal pressure hydrocephalus, intracranial hypotension, CSF leaks, and possibly Alzheimer's disease (AD). The ability of CSF to clear normal and pathological proteins, such as amyloid-beta (Aβ), tau, alpha synuclein and others, implicates it production, circulation, and composition, in many neuropathologies. Several neuroimaging modalities have been developed to probe CSF fluid dynamics and better relate CSF volume and flow to anatomy and clinical conditions. Approaches include 2-photon microscopic techniques, MRI (tracer-based, gadolinium contrast, endogenous phase-contrast), and dynamic positron emission tomography (PET) using existing approved radiotracers. Here, we discuss CSF flow neuroimaging, from animal models to recent clinical-research advances, summarizing current endeavors to quantify and map CSF flow with implications towards pathophysiology, new biomarkers, and treatments of neurological diseases.

Keywords: Cerebrospinal fluid; Fluid dynamics; MRI; Modalities; Neuroimaging; PET.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease* / diagnosis
  • Amyloid beta-Peptides / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Biomarkers / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Neuroimaging
  • Peptide Fragments / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • tau Proteins / cerebrospinal fluid


  • Amyloid beta-Peptides
  • Biomarkers
  • Peptide Fragments
  • tau Proteins