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Microcirculation. 2015 Apr;22(3):204-218. doi: 10.1111/micc.12195.

Robust and fragile aspects of cortical blood flow in relation to the underlying angioarchitecture.

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Department of Neurosciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC.
Department of Physics, University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, CA.
Department of Neurobiology, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.
Department of Neurosciences, University of California School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA.
Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA.
Department of Pharmacology, University of California School of Medicine, La Jolla, CA.
Department of Neurology, Cedars-Sinai Hospital, Los Angeles, CA.
Department of Biomedical Engineering, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
Section of Neurobiology, University of California, La Jolla, CA.
Contributed equally


We review the organizational principles of the cortical vasculature and the underlying patterns of blood flow under normal conditions and in response to occlusion of single vessels. The cortex is sourced by a two-dimensional network of pial arterioles that feeds a three-dimensional network of subsurface microvessels in close proximity to neurons and glia. Blood flow within the surface and subsurface networks is largely insensitive to occlusion of a single vessel within either network. However, the penetrating arterioles that connect the pial network to the subsurface network are bottlenecks to flow; occlusion of even a single penetrating arteriole results in the death of a 500 μm diameter cylinder of cortical tissue despite the potential for collateral flow through microvessels. This pattern of flow is consistent with that calculated from a full reconstruction of the angioarchitecture. Conceptually, collateral flow is insufficient to compensate for the occlusion of a penetrating arteriole because penetrating venules act as shunts of blood that flows through collaterals. Future directions that stem from the analysis of the angioarchitecture concern cellular-level issues, in particular the regulation of blood flow within the subsurface microvascular network, and system-level issues, in particular the role of penetrating arteriole occlusions in human cognitive impairment.


imaging; microvessels; penetrating vessels; pial vessels; rodent

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