Sleep 'cleans' the brain by flushing out toxins
Date published: 18th October 2013
The study, published today in the journal Science, reveals that the brain’s unique method of waste removal also clears away toxins responsible for Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.
Scientists studied images of the brains of mice, looking at the brain 'plumbing system' used to transport waste material out of pipes while we sleep, known as the glymphatic system.
The glyphatic system was ten times more active when the mice were asleep, as opposed to when they were awake.
Researchers found that when asleep, the brain's cells reduce in size, making it easier for waste to be removed effectively.
To flush waste toxins out of the brain, cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) is pumped through the brain's tissue, where it makes its way into the blood circulation system before reaching the liver.
However, pumping CSF fluid requires a large supply of energy. Researchers speculated that the process of cleaning may not be compatible with the functions the brain must perform when awake and actively processing information.
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