Binaural blood flow control by astrocytes: listening to synapses and the vasculature

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56 Scopus citations


Astrocytes are the most common glial cells in the brain with fine processes and endfeet that intimately contact both neuronal synapses and the cerebral vasculature. They play an important role in mediating neurovascular coupling (NVC) via several astrocytic Ca2+-dependent signalling pathways such as K+ release through BK channels, and the production and release of arachidonic acid metabolites. They are also involved in maintaining the resting tone of the cerebral vessels by releasing ATP and COX-1 derivatives. Evidence also supports a role for astrocytes in maintaining blood pressure-dependent change in cerebrovascular tone, and perhaps also in blood vessel-to-neuron signalling as posited by the ‘hemo-neural hypothesis’. Thus, astrocytes are emerging as new stars in preserving the intricate balance between the high energy demand of active neurons and the supply of oxygen and nutrients from the blood by maintaining both resting blood flow and activity-evoked changes therein. Following neuropathology, astrocytes become reactive and many of their key signalling mechanisms are altered, including those involved in NVC. Furthermore, as they can respond to changes in vascular pressure, cardiovascular diseases might exert previously unknown effects on the central nervous system by altering astrocyte function. This review discusses the role of astrocytes in neurovascular signalling in both physiology and pathology, and the impact of these findings on understanding BOLD-fMRI signals. (Figure presented.).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1885-1902
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • astrocytes
  • cerebral blood flow
  • functional hyperemia
  • hemo-neural hypothesis
  • neuroglial signalling
  • neurovascular coupling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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