Increased neuron and astrocyte activity triggers increased brain blood flow, but controversy exists over whether stimulation-induced changes in astrocyte activity are rapid and widespread enough to contribute to brain blood flow control. Here, we provide evidence for stimulus-evoked Ca(2+) elevations with rapid onset and short duration in a large proportion of cortical astrocytes in the adult mouse somatosensory cortex. Our improved detection of the fast Ca(2+) signals is due to a signal-enhancing analysis of the Ca(2+) activity. The rapid stimulation-evoked Ca(2+) increases identified in astrocyte somas, processes, and end-feet preceded local vasodilatation. Fast Ca(2+) responses in both neurons and astrocytes correlated with synaptic activity, but only the astrocytic responses correlated with the hemodynamic shifts. These data establish that a large proportion of cortical astrocytes have brief Ca(2+) responses with a rapid onset in vivo, fast enough to initiate hemodynamic responses or influence synaptic activity.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2013, Vol 110, Issue 48