A fundamental discovery of modern human brain imaging with positron- emission tomography that the blood flow to activated regions of the normal human brain increases substantially more than the oxygen consumption has led to a broad discussion in the literature concerning possible mechanisms responsible for this phenomenon. Presently no consensus exists. It is well known that oxygen delivery is not the only function of systemic circulation. Additional roles include delivery of nutrients and other required substances to the tissue, waste removal, and temperature regulation. Among these other functions, the role of regional cerebral blood flow in local brain temperature regulation has received scant attention. Here we present a theoretical analysis supported by empirical data obtained with functional magnetic resonance suggesting that increase in regional cerebral blood flow during functional stimulation can cause local changes in the brain temperature and subsequent local changes in the oxygen metabolism. On average, temperature decreases by 0.2°C, but individual variations up to ±1°C were also observed. Major factors contributing to temperature regulation during functional stimulation are changes in the oxygen consumption, changes in the temperature of incoming arterial blood, and extensive heat exchange between activated and surrounding brain tissue.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7603-7608
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jun 20 2000


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