Rude mechanicals in brain haemodynamics: Non-neural actors that influence blood flow: Nonneural drivers of brain haemodynamics

Aniruddha Das, Kevin Murphy, Patrick J. Drew

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Fluctuations in blood oxygenation and flow are widely used to infer brain activity during resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). However, there are strong systemic and vascular contributions to resting-state signals that are unrelated to ongoing neural activity. Importantly, these non-neural contributions to haemodynamic signals (or 'rude mechanicals') can be as large as or larger than the neurally evoked components. Here, we review the two broad classes of drivers of these signals. One is systemic and is tied to fluctuations in external drivers such as heart rate and breathing, and the robust autoregulatory mechanisms that try to maintain a constant milieu in the brain. The other class comprises local, active fluctuations that appear to be intrinsic to vascular tissue and are likely similar to active local fluctuations seen in vasculature all over the body. In this review, we describe these non-neural fluctuations and some of the tools developed to correct for them when interpreting fMRI recordings. However, we also emphasize the links between these vascular fluctuations and brain physiology and point to ways in which fMRI measurements can be used to exploit such links to gain valuable information about neurovascular health and about internal brain states. This article is part of the theme issue 'Key relationships between non-invasive functional neuroimaging and the underlying neuronal activity'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20190635
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1815
StatePublished - Jan 4 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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