Cerebral blood flow regulation in REM sleep: a model for flow-metabolism coupling.

P. Lenzi, G. Zoccoli, A. M. Walker, C. Franzini


The pattern of metabolic and circulatory changes occurring during REM sleep in the whole brain is also observed at a regional level in different instances of functional activation. This pattern is characterized by an increase in metabolic rate, blood flow, glucose and oxygen uptake, the increase in glucose uptake generally exceeding oxygen uptake. A model of interpretation is presented, based on the assumption that substantial limitation to oxygen diffusion exists in the brain. According to the model, microregions lying at mid-distance between capillaries may become hypoxic, depending on metabolic rate and blood-cell PO2 difference. At increasing metabolic rates, O2 consumption in pericapillary microregions increases and the PO2 drop becomes steeper. As a consequence, in microregions far from capillaries a decrease in O2 availability occurs, in concomitance with the increase in metabolic rate, so that non-oxidative glucose metabolism develops locally. A similar spatial PO2 pattern forms in the case of arterial hypoxia, when capillary PO2, and then blood-cell PO2 difference, is reduced. The hypoxic microregions are the source of vasodilatatory messages, the consequent vasodilatation increasing average capillary PO2 and then favoring O2 diffusion to the tissue. Oxygen thus appears to be a better candidate than glucose as a mediator of blood flow-metabolism coupling. This is supported by its higher extraction fraction and by the fact that, in physiologic conditions, arterial hypoxia (and not hypoglycemia) acts on cerebral blood flow. Moreover, the diffusion capacity of glucose in the brain is higher than that of oxygen, so that diffusion limitation is more likely to occur for oxygen. The present model allows consistent organization of the stereotyped changes in cerebral blood flow and glucose and oxygen uptake occurring both in REM sleep and in other instances of brain activation.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4449/aib.v137i2.582


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