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Human Body > VI. The Arteries > The Arteries of the Brain

3b. The Arteries of the Brain

FIG. 519– Diagram of the arterial circulation at the base of the brain. A.L. Antero-lateral. A.M. Antero-medial. P.L. Postero-lateral. P.M. Posteromedial ganglionic branches.
Since the mode of distribution of the vessels of the brain has an important bearing upon a considerable number of the pathological lesions which may occur in this part of the nervous system, it is important to consider a little more in detail the manner in which the vessels are distributed.
  The cerebral arteries are derived from the internal carotid and vertebral, which at the base of the brain form a remarkable anastomosis known as the arterial circle of Willis. It is formed in front by the anterior cerebral arteries, branches of the internal carotid, which are connected together by the anterior communicating; behind by the two posterior cerebral arteries, branches of the basilar, which are connected on either side with the internal carotid by the posterior communicating (Figs. 516, 519). The parts of the brain included within this arterial circle are the lamina terminalis, the optic chiasma, the infundibulum, the tuber cinereum, the corpora mammillaria, and the posterior perforated substance.
  The three trunks which together supply each cerebral hemisphere arise from the arterial circle of Willis. From its anterior part proceed the two anterior cerebrals, from its antero-lateral parts the middle cerebrals, and from its posterior part the posterior cerebrals. Each of these principal arteries gives origin to two different systems of secondary vessels. One of these is named the ganglionic system, and the vessels belonging to it supply the thalami and corpora striata; the other is the cortical system, and its vessels ramify in the pia mater and supply the cortex and subjacent brain substance. These two systems do not communicate at any point of their peripheral distribution, but are entirely independent of each other, and there is between the parts supplied by the two systems a borderland of diminished nutritive activity, where, it is said, softening is especially liable to occur in the brains of old people.
The Ganglionic System.—All the vessels of this system are given off from the arterial circle of Willis, or from the vessels close to it. They form six principal groups: (I) the antero-medial group, derived from the anterior cerebrals and anterior communicating; (II) the postero-medial group, from the posterior cerebrals and posterior communicating; (III and IV) the right and left antero-lateral groups, from the middle cerebrals; and (V and VI) the right and left postero-lateral groups, from the posterior cerebrals, after they have wound around the cerebral peduncles. The vessels of this system are larger than those of the cortical system, and are what Cohnheim designated terminal arteries—that is to say, vessels which from their origin to their termination neither supply nor receive any anastomotic branch, so that, through any one of the vessels only a limited area of the thalamus or corpus striatum can be injected, and the injection cannot be driven beyond the area of the part supplied by the particular vessel which is the subject of the experiment.
The Cortical Arterial System.—The vessels forming this system are the terminal branches of the anterior, middle, and posterior cerebral arteries. They divide and ramify in the substance of the pia mater, and give off branches which penetrate the brain cortex, perpendicularly. These branches are divisible into two classes, long and short. The long, or medullary arteries, pass through the gray substance and penetrate the subjacent white substance to the depth of 3 or 4 cm., without intercommunicating otherwise than by very fine capillaries, and thus constitute so many independent small systems. The short vessels are confined to the cortex, where they form with the long vessels a compact net-work in the middle zone of the gray substance, the outer and inner zones being sparingly supplied with blood. The vessels of the cortical arterial system are not so strictly “terminal” as those of the ganglionic system, but they approach this type very closely, so that injection of one area from the vessel of another area, though possible, is frequently very difficult, and is only effected through vessels of small caliber. As a result of this, obstruction of one of the main branches, or its divisions, may have the effect of producing softening in a limited area of the cortex.

Human Body > VI. The Arteries > The Arteries of the Brain


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