Systems analysis of the systemic arterial (SAPW), cerebrospinal fluid (CSFPW), and sagittal sinus (SSPW) pulse waves was carried out in 13 dogs during hypercapnia (5% CO2), intracranial normotension (inhalation of 100% O2), and intracranial hypertension (inhalation of 100% O2 plus an intraventricular infusion). Power amplitude and phase spectra were determined for each wave, and the power amplitude and phase transfer functions calculated between the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pressure and systemic arterial pressures, and between the sagittal sinus pressure and CSF pressure. The study indicates that the CSFPW and SSPW were virtually identical when impedance between the cerebral veins and sagittal sinus was minimal, which argues that the CSF pulse was derived from the cerebral venous bed. During inhalation of 100% O2, transmission of the SAPW across the precapillary resistance vessels into the cerebral venous pulse (as represented by the CSFPW) was nonlinear, while transmission across the lateral lacunae into the sagittal sinus was linear. During intracranial hypertension, wave transmission across the precapillary resistance vessels was linear, and across the lateral lacunae was nonlinear. During hypercapnia, wave transmission across the precapillary resistance vessels and the lateral lacunae was linear. When the wave transmission was nonlinear, there was also suppression in transmission of the lower harmonics, particularly the fundamental frequency, and a more positive phase transfer function, suggesting an inertial effect or decrease in acceleration of the pulse. Conversion from a nonlinear to linear transmission across the precapillary resistance vessels is evidence of loss of vasomotor tone, and is accompanied by rounding of the CSFPW. A vascular model which encompasses the above data and is based on flow in collapsible tubes and changes in vasomotor tone is posited to explain control of pulsatile flow and pulse waveform changes in the cerebrovascular bed. The model helps to clarify the strong interrelationship between intracranial pressure, cerebral blood flow, and cerebral autoregulation.