In the brain, increases in neural activity drive changes in local blood flow via neurovascular coupling. The common explanation for increased blood flow (known as functional hyperemia) is that it supplies the metabolic needs of active neurons. However, there is a large body of evidence that is inconsistent with this idea. Baseline blood flow is adequate to supply oxygen needs even with elevated neural activity. Neurovascular coupling is irregular, absent, or inverted in many brain regions, behavioral states, and conditions. Increases in respiration can increase brain oxygenation without flow changes. Simulations show that given the architecture of the brain vasculature, areas of low blood flow are inescapable and cannot be removed by functional hyperemia. As discussed in this article, potential alternative functions of neurovascular coupling include supplying oxygen for neuromodulator synthesis, brain temperature regulation, signaling to neurons, stabilizing and optimizing the cerebral vascular structure, accommodating the non-Newtonian nature of blood, and driving the production and circulation of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)809-819
Number of pages11
JournalTrends in Neurosciences
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Neuroscience


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