Evaluating the methods used for measuring cerebral blood flow at rest and during exercise in humans

Michael M. Tymko, Philip N. Ainslie, Kurt J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The first accounts of measuring cerebral blood flow (CBF) in humans were made by Angelo Mosso in similar to 1880, who recorded brain pulsations in patients with skull defects. In 1890, Charles Roy and Charles Sherrington determined in animals that brain pulsations-assessed via a similar method used by Mosso-were altered during a variety of stimuli including sensory nerve stimulation, asphyxia, and pharmacological interventions. Between 1880 and 1944, measurements for CBF were typically relied on skull abnormalities in humans. Thereafter, Kety and Schmidt introduced a new methodological approach in 1945 that involved nitrous oxide dilution combined with serial arterial and jugular venous blood sampling. Less than a decade later (1950's), several research groups employed the Kety-Schmidt technique to assess the effects of exercise on global CBF and metabolism; these studies demonstrated an uncoupling of CBF and metabolism during exercise, which was contrary to early hypotheses. However, there were several limitations to this technique related to low temporal resolution and the inability to measure regional CBF. These limitations were overcome in the 1960's when transcranial Doppler ultrasound (TCD) was developed as a method to measure beat-by-beat cerebral blood velocity. Between 1990 and 2010, TCD further progressed our understanding of CBF regulation and allowed for insight into other mechanistic factors, independent of local metabolism, involved in regulating CBF during exercise. Recently, it was discovered that TCD may not be accurate under several physiological conditions. Other measures of indexing CBF such as Duplex ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging, although not without some limitations, may be more applicable for future investigations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1527-1538
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


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