Regulation of cerebral blood flow
The control of cerebral blood flow is complex, and only beginning to be elucidated. Studies have identified three key regulatory paradigms. The first is cerebral pressure autoregulation, which maintains a constant flow in the face of changing cerebral perfusion pressure. Flow-metabolism coupling refers to the brains ability to vary blood flow to match metabolic activity. An extensive arborization of perivascular nerves also serves to modulate cerebral blood flow, so-called neurogenic regulation. Central to these three paradigms are two cell types: endothelium and astrocytes. The endothelium produces several vasoactive factors that are germane to the regulation of cerebral blood flow: nitric oxide, endothelium-dependent hyperpolarization factor, the eicosanoids, and the endothelins. Astrocytic foot processes directly abut the blood vessels, and play a key role in regulation of cerebral blood flow. Lastly, new research has been investigating cell-cell communication at the microvascular level. Several lines of evidence point to the ability of the larger proximal vessels to coordinate vasomotor responses downstream.