UCL Division of Biosciences


NPP Seminar - Professor David Attwell, University College London

26 October 2022, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

David Attwell

Title: 'Brain blood flow control at the capillary level in health and disease'

Event Information

Open to

UCL staff | UCL students | UCL alumni




Charlette Bent-Gayle


G46 H O Schild Pharmacology LT
Medical Sciences and Anatomy
Gower Street
United Kingdom

Academic Host: Stephanie Schorge

Abstract: Brain blood flow is regulated to ensure adequate power for neuronal computation. Blood flow is increased to areas where neurons are active, and this increase underlies non-invasive brain imaging using BOLD fMRI. I will demonstrate that neuronal activity largely increases cerebral blood flow by dilating capillaries via pericytes, that this involves signalling via astrocytes, and that dilation of capillaries and dilation of arterioles are mediated by different messengers.

Ischaemia leads to pericytes constricting and dying, thus producing a long-lasting decrease of blood flow. I will show that similar events occur in Alzheimer’s Disease, when pericyte-mediated constriction is sufficient to approximately halve blood flow and in humans increases with the severity of the disease. A similar pericyte-mediated constriction may occur in Covid-19 and in diabetes. Pericyte constriction is therefore a therapeutic target in stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and perhaps Covid-19 and diabetes.


About the Speaker

Professor David Attwell

Professor of Physiology at University College London

David Attwell did a first degree in physics and a PhD on the electrophysiology of nerve and muscle cells (with Julian Jack) in Oxford, before spending 2 years in Berkeley studying the retina with Frank Werblin. On returning to the UK, he moved to the Department of Physiology at University College London, where he has remained ever since. He has worked on a wide range of subjects including the properties of glial cells, glutamate transporters, stroke, the formation of myelin by oligodendrocytes, how neuronal computation is powered and the control of cerebral blood flow. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 2001.

More about Professor David Attwell