The University of Southampton
Engineering and the Environment

Research project: Diversity in blood flow control to the brain

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The brain, more than any other organ in the body, requires a constant supply of blood in order to maintain its function. When blood pressure drops, small arteries dilate to restore flow levels, and when pressure rises, they constrict to protect the most delicate blood vessels and avoid bleeding in the brain. This control system can however become impaired for example following stroke, head trauma, in dementia or following premature birth and this has been associated with worse outcomes for the patient. Failure of the control system also has important implications for the management of patient’s blood pressure: changes in blood pressure could be dangerous without the protection of this ‘autoregulatory’ system.

Project Overview

The control system is highly complex and, typical of such biological systems, there are multiple complementary physiological mechanisms working in parallel. There are indications that even in healthy individuals there are differences in the manner and the extent to which they control the flow. Understanding these may be key to achieving accurate detection of potentially dangerous impairment of regulatory function and thus to protecting the brains of vulnerable patients.
Our main research effort is directed at developing more robust methods of detecting the activities of the control system. This involves testing modified experimental procedures, and more sophisticated approaches in the analysis of data (traces of blood pressure, blood flow, heart-rate etc.). It is in the latter area where we have made most progress, so far.

Dr. David Simpson in the experimental system to measure the control of blood flow to the brain
Dr. David Simpson

This research work is being carried out with colleagues at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, the Universities of Leicester and Oxford, as well as collaborators across the world through the Cerebral Autoregulation Research Network (CARNet http://www.car-net.org/).

Related research groups

Signal Processing and Control Group

Staff

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