Oxygen-conserving reflexes of the brain: The current molecular knowledge

B. Schaller, J. F. Cornelius, N. Sandu, Giulia Ottaviani, M. A. Perez-Pinzon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


The trigemino-cardiac reflex (TCR) may be classified as a sub-phenomenon in the group of the so-called 'oxygen-conserving reflexes'. Within seconds after the initiation of such a reflex, there is neither a powerful and differentiated activation of the sympathetic system with subsequent elevation in regional cerebral blood flow (CBF) with no changes in the cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2) or in the cerebral metabolic rate of glucose (CMRglc). Such an increase in regional CBF without a change of CMRO2 or CMRglc provides the brain with oxygen rapidly and efficiently and gives substantial evidence that the TCR is an oxygen-conserving reflex. This system, which mediates reflex protection projects via currently undefined pathways from the rostral ventrolateral medulla oblongata to the upper brainstem and/or thalamus which finally engage a small population of neurons in the cortex. This cortical centre appears to be dedicated to reflexively transduce a neuronal signal into cerebral vasodilatation and synchronization of electrocortical activity. Sympathetic excitation is mediated by cortical-spinal projection to spinal pre-ganglionic sympathetic neurons whereas bradycardia is mediated via projections to cardiovagal motor medullary neurons. The integrated reflex response serves to redistribute blood from viscera to brain in response to a challenge to cerebral metabolism, but seems also to initiate a preconditioning mechanism. Better and more detailed knowledge of the cascades, transmitters and molecules engaged in such endogenous (neuro) protection may provide new insights into novel therapeutic options for a range of disorders characterized by neuronal death and into cortical organization of the brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)644-647
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2009


  • Diving reflex
  • Oxygen-conserving reflex
  • Trigemino-cardiac reflex

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Medicine


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