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Neuron. 2011 Sep 8;71(5):782-97. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2011.08.009.

Role of astrocytes in neurovascular coupling.

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  • 1German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), Ludwig-Erhard-Allee 2, 53175 Bonn, Germany.


Neural activity is intimately tied to blood flow in the brain. This coupling is specific enough in space and time that modern imaging methods use local hemodynamics as a measure of brain activity. In this review, we discuss recent evidence indicating that neuronal activity is coupled to local blood flow changes through an intermediary, the astrocyte. We highlight unresolved issues regarding the role of astrocytes and propose ways to address them using novel techniques. Our focus is on cellular level analysis in vivo, but we also relate mechanistic insights gained from ex vivo experiments to native tissue. We also review some strategies to harness advances in optical and genetic methods to study neurovascular coupling in the intact brain.

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