Cerebral veins drain deoxygenated blood from the brain. The brain has two main networks of veins: an exterior or superficial network, on the surface of the cerebrum that has three branches, and an interior network. These two networks communicate via anastomosing (joining) veins. The veins of the brain drain into larger cavities of the dural venous sinuses usually situated between the dura mater and the covering of the skull. Blood from the cerebellum and midbrain drains into the great cerebral vein. Blood from the medulla and pons of the brainstem have a variable pattern of drainage, either into the spinal veins or into adjacent cerebral veins.
The blood in the deep part of the brain drains, through a venous plexus into the cavernous sinus at the front, and the superior and inferior petrosal sinuses at the sides, and the inferior sagittal sinus at the back. Blood drains from the outer brain into the large superior sagittal sinus, which rests in the midline on top of the brain. Blood from here joins with blood from the straight sinus at the confluence of sinuses.
Blood from here drains into the left and right transverse sinuses. These then drain into the sigmoid sinuses, which receive blood from the cavernous sinus and superior and inferior petrosal sinuses. The sigmoid drains into the large internal jugular veins.
The blood–brain barrier
The larger arteries throughout the brain supply blood to smaller capillaries. These smallest of blood vessels in the brain, are lined with cells joined by tight junctions and so fluids do not seep in or leak out to the same degree as they do in other capillaries; this creates the blood–brain barrier. Pericytes play a major role in the formation of the tight junctions. The barrier is less permeable to larger molecules, but is still permeable to water, carbon dioxide, oxygen, and most fat-soluble substances (including anaesthetics and alcohol). The blood-brain barrier is not present in the circumventricular organs—which are structures in the brain that may need to respond to changes in body fluids—such as the pineal gland, area postrema, and some areas of the hypothalamus. There is a similar blood–cerebrospinal fluid barrier, which serves the same purpose as the blood–brain barrier, but facilitates the transport of different substances into the brain due to the distinct structural characteristics between the two barrier systems.