Date of Thesis

Spring 2012


Brain functions, such as learning, orchestrating locomotion, memory recall, and processing information, all require glucose as a source of energy. During these functions, the glucose concentration decreases as the glucose is being consumed by brain cells. By measuring this drop in concentration, it is possible to determine which parts of the brain are used during specific functions and consequently, how much energy the brain requires to complete the function. One way to measure in vivo brain glucose levels is with a microdialysis probe. The drawback of this analytical procedure, as with many steadystate fluid flow systems, is that the probe fluid will not reach equilibrium with the brain fluid. Therefore, brain concentration is inferred by taking samples at multiple inlet glucose concentrations and finding a point of convergence. The goal of this thesis is to create a three-dimensional, time-dependent, finite element representation of the brainprobe system in COMSOL 4.2 that describes the diffusion and convection of glucose. Once validated with experimental results, this model can then be used to test parameters that experiments cannot access. When simulations were run using published values for physical constants (i.e. diffusivities, density and viscosity), the resulting glucose model concentrations were within the error of the experimental data. This verifies that the model is an accurate representation of the physical system. In addition to accurately describing the experimental brain-probe system, the model I created is able to show the validity of zero-net-flux for a given experiment. A useful discovery is that the slope of the zero-net-flux line is dependent on perfusate flow rate and diffusion coefficients, but it is independent of brain glucose concentrations. The model was simplified with the realization that the perfusate is at thermal equilibrium with the brain throughout the active region of the probe. This allowed for the assumption that all model parameters are temperature independent. The time to steady-state for the probe is approximately one minute. However, the signal degrades in the exit tubing due to Taylor dispersion, on the order of two minutes for two meters of tubing. Given an analytical instrument requiring a five μL aliquot, the smallest brain process measurable for this system is 13 minutes.


Glucose, Extracellular fluid, Microdialysis, Zero-Net-Flux, Model, Mass transport

Access Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science in Chemical Engineering


Chemical Engineering

First Advisor

Margot Vigeant