Sensory Sensitivity

Sensory Sensitivity: Stimulation and deprivation alter vascular structure in the brain
Blood vessel networks in mouse brains
Blood vessel networks in mouse brains were less complex after sensory deprivation (left) and more complex after sensory stimulation (right), suggesting that sensory-related neural activity affects blood vessel structure. Image: Baptiste Lacoste

Nerves and blood vessels lead intimately entwined lives. They grow up together, following similar cues as they spread throughout the body. Blood vessels supply nerves with oxygen and nutrients, while nerves control blood vessel dilation and heart rate.

Neurovascular relationships are especially important in the brain. Studies have shown that when neurons work hard, blood flow increases to keep them nourished. Scientists have been asking whether neural activity also changes the structure of local vascular networks.

According to new research published in the Sept. 3 issue of Neuron, the answer is yes.

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