Studies of mammalian CSF dynamics have been focused on three things: paravascular flow, pressure and pulsatility, and “bulk” flow; and three (respective) potential motive forces have been identified: vasomotor, cardiac, and ventilatory. There are unresolved questions in each area, and few links between the different areas. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) has pronounced plasticity in its ventilatory and cardiovascular systems. This study was designed to test the hypothesis that the greater cardiovascular and ventilatory plasticity of A. mississippiensis would result in more variation within the CSF dynamics of this species.
Pressure transducers were surgically implanted into the cranial subarachnoid space of 12 sub-adult alligators; CSF pressure and pulsatility were monitored along with EKG and the exhalatory gases. In four of the alligators a second pressure transducer was implanted into the spinal subarachnoid space. In five of the alligators the CSF was labeled with artificial microspheres and Doppler ultrasonography used to quantify aspects of the spinal CSF flow.
Both temporal and frequency analyses of the CSF pulsations showed highly variable contributions of both the cardiac and ventilatory cycles. Unlike the mammalian condition, the CSF pressure pulsations in the alligator are often of long (~ 3 s) duration, and similar duration CSF unidirectional flow pulses were recorded along the spinal cord. Reduction of the duration of the CSF pulsations, as during tachycardia, can lead to a “summation” of the pulsations. There appears to be a minimum duration (~ 1 s) of isolated CSF pulsations. Simultaneous recordings of cranial and spinal CSF pressures reveal a 200 ms delay in the propagation of the pressure pulse from the cranium to the vertebral canal.
Most of the CSF flow dynamics recorded from the alligators, are similar to what has been reported from studies of the human CSF. It is hypothesized that the link between ventilatory mechanics and CSF pulsations in the alligator is mediated by displacement of the spinal dura. The results of the study suggest that understanding the CSF dynamics of Alligator may provide unique insights into the evolutionary origins and functional regulation of the human CSF dynamics.
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