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A stochastic differential equation analysis of cerebrospinal fluid dynamics

Kalyan Raman

Author Affiliations

Medill IMC Department, Northwestern University, 1870 Campus Drive, Third Floor, Evanston, IL 60208, USA

Fluids and Barriers of the CNS 2011, 8:9  doi:10.1186/2045-8118-8-9

Published: 18 January 2011



Clinical measurements of intracranial pressure (ICP) over time show fluctuations around the deterministic time path predicted by a classic mathematical model in hydrocephalus research. Thus an important issue in mathematical research on hydrocephalus remains unaddressed--modeling the effect of noise on CSF dynamics. Our objective is to mathematically model the noise in the data.


The classic model relating the temporal evolution of ICP in pressure-volume studies to infusions is a nonlinear differential equation based on natural physical analogies between CSF dynamics and an electrical circuit. Brownian motion was incorporated into the differential equation describing CSF dynamics to obtain a nonlinear stochastic differential equation (SDE) that accommodates the fluctuations in ICP.


The SDE is explicitly solved and the dynamic probabilities of exceeding critical levels of ICP under different clinical conditions are computed. A key finding is that the probabilities display strong threshold effects with respect to noise. Above the noise threshold, the probabilities are significantly influenced by the resistance to CSF outflow and the intensity of the noise.


Fluctuations in the CSF formation rate increase fluctuations in the ICP and they should be minimized to lower the patient's risk. The nonlinear SDE provides a scientific methodology for dynamic risk management of patients. The dynamic output of the SDE matches the noisy ICP data generated by the actual intracranial dynamics of patients better than the classic model used in prior research.