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Circle of Willis

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


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. The parts of
the brain

included within this arterial circle are the lamina terminalis, the optic
chiasma, the

infundibulum, the tuber cinereum, the corpora mammillary, 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

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

belonging to it supply the thalami and corpora striata; the other is the

system, and its vessels ramify in the pia mater and supply the cortex and

brain substance. These two systems do not communicate at any point of


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


where, it is said, softening is especially liable to occur in the brains of old


The Ganglionic System.—All the vessels of this system are given off
from the


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

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

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


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

system are not so strictly “terminal” as those of the ganglionic system, but

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


divisions, may have the effect of producing softening in a limited area of the