Columbia Engineers Provide New Insight into How the Brain Regulates Its Blood Flow
In a new study published online in the Journal of the American Heart Association June 12, 2014, researchers at Columbia Engineering report that they have identified a new component of the biological mechanism that controls blood flow in the brain. Led by Elizabeth M. C. Hillman, associate professor of biomedical engineering, the team has demonstrated, for the first time, that the vascular endothelium plays a critical role in the regulation of blood flow in response to stimulation in the living brain.
“We think we’ve found a missing link in our understanding of how the brain dynamically tunes its blood flow to stay in sync with the activity of neurons,” says Hillman, who has a joint appointment in Radiology. She is also a member of the Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia. Hillman has spent more than 10 years using advanced imaging tools to study how blood flow is controlled in the brain. “Earlier studies identified small pieces of the puzzle, but we didn’t believe they formed a cohesive ‘big picture’ that unified everybody’s observations. Our new finding seems to really connect the dots.”
“Our finding unifies what is known about blood flow regulation in the rest of the body with how it is regulated in the brain,” Hillman explains. “This has wider reaching implications since there are many disease states known to affect blood flow regulation in the rest of the body that, until now, were not expected to directly affect brain health.”
“Our latest finding gives us a new way of thinking about brain disease—that some conditions assumed to be caused by faulty neurons could actually be problems with faulty blood vessels,” Hillman adds. “This gives us a new target to focus on to explore treatments for a wide range of disorders that have, until now, been thought of as impossible to treat. The brain’s vasculature is a critical partner in normal brain function. We hope that we are slowly getting closer to untangling some of the mysteries of the human brain.”
http://engineering.columbia.edu/columbi ... blood-flow
Full paper A Critical Role for the Vascular Endothelium in Functional Neurovascular Coupling in the Brain