This article is part of the Research Topic Neurovascular imaging


Front. Neuroenergetics, 25 April 2011 | doi: 10.3389/fnene.2011.00001

A guide to delineate the logic of neurovascular signaling in the brain

  • 1 Department of Physics, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA
  • 2 Section of Neurobiology, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA
  • 3 Center for Neural Circuits and Behavior, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA

The neurovascular system may be viewed as a distributed nervous system within the brain. It transforms local neuronal activity into a change in the tone of smooth muscle that lines the walls of arterioles and microvessels. We review the current state of neurovascular coupling, with an emphasis on signaling molecules that convey information from neurons to neighboring vessels. At the level of neocortex, this coupling is mediated by: (i) a likely direct interaction with inhibitory neurons, (ii) indirect interaction, via astrocytes, with excitatory neurons, and (iii) fiber tracts from subcortical layers. Substantial evidence shows that control involves competition between signals that promote vasoconstriction versus vasodilation. Consistent with this picture is evidence that, under certain circumstances, increased neuronal activity can lead to vasoconstriction rather than vasodilation. This confounds naïve interpretations of functional brain images. We discuss experimental approaches to detect signaling molecules in vivo with the goal of formulating an empirical basis for the observed logic of neurovascular control.

Keywords: astrocytes, blood flow, channelrhodopsin, interneurons, neurotransmitter, two-photon

Citation: Kleinfeld D, Blinder P, Drew PJ, Driscoll JD, Muller A, Tsai PS, and Shih AY (2011) A guide to delineate the logic of neurovascular signaling in the brain. Front. Neuroenerg. 3:1. doi: 10.3389/fnene.2011.00001

Received: 08 March 2010; Paper pending published: 08 March 2010;
Accepted: 11 April 2011; Published online: 25 April 2011.

Edited by:

Anna Devor, University of California San Diego, USA

Reviewed by:

Christopher I. Moore, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA
Samuel S.-H Wang, Princeton University, USA

Copyright: © 2011 Kleinfeld, Blinder, Drew, Driscoll, Muller, Tsai and Shih. This is an open-access article subject to a non-exclusive license between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and other Frontiers conditions are complied with.

*Correspondence: David Kleinfeld, Department of Physics, University of California, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093-0374, USA. e-mail:

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