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Sleep eliminates waste and toxins that accumulate in the brain

Sleep eliminates waste and toxins that accumulate in the brain

Sleep is essential for our proper functioning. While we sleep, we achieve a physical and cognitive balance and not only recover energy, but the organs and systems of the body work to control all vital functions, maintaining a good level of homeostasis, that is, a correct tendency to internal self-regulation that Get stabilize the body.

In fact, there is still much to discover about the importance that the act of sleeping has for our survival and research in recent years is revealing more and more information. One of these investigations highlights the important ability of sleep to eliminate toxins and accumulated waste in the brain.

When sleeping we eliminate brain waste

For centuries, scientists have wondered how sleep affects the brain by improving cognitive abilities such as attention, memory or concentration. It has not been until recent years when they have begun to reveal the properties that sleep has at the brain level. This is what the research team of the Rochester University led by Dr. Nedergaard who managed to find out how the act of sleeping got that the brain will cleanse itself of toxic molecules.

Team members studied the brains of mice while they slept and checked how, in Nedergaard's words, brain fluids pumped and were eliminated at a very rapid rate. Using the two photon excitation microscopy technique, a technique that allows visualization of images of living tissues with great depth, the researchers were able to observe how the cerebrospinal fluid flowed through the brain more fluently, managing to eliminate harmful substances and incorporating them through the bloodstream into the liver, where these elements would later be disposed of.

Cerebrospinal fluid is a transparent fluid that, in addition to serving as a waste eliminator, acts as a buffer for the impacts that the brain may receive.

For this cleaning process, glial cells, cells that play a key role in brain support and functioning, also have very important functions. Through glyph system, the glial cells control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid by swelling or shrinking for the best passage.

The researchers decided to check if the glinatic system in the sleeping brain underwent some modification and through the insertion of electrodes to measure the space between the cells, they verified how they shrunk to reduce by 60%, allowing a greater fluidity of this liquid and getting a better elimination of toxins.

When the animals woke up, the cells were enlarged again and the cerebrospinal cleaning fluid was reduced until it practically became a drip. "It's almost like opening and closing a key," the study leader explained. "We were surprised at the little circulation in the brain when the mice were awake. (...) This suggests that the space between brain cells changes a lot between conscious and unconscious states."

According to Nedergaard, this process cannot be carried out during the vigil because it requires a lot of energy, which would cause our capabilities to not work properly.

The importance of eliminating brain toxins

This process is important, because it allows the brain eliminate proteins that are toxic for him. This could explain why when we do not sleep well, it is so difficult for us to maintain our cognitive functions properly. "It's like a car wash," explains Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, author of the study published in the journal Science.

The results of Nedergaard's research also relate to some extent with the connection between sleep disorders and diseases such as Alzheimer's. During this disease, there is a peptide called beta amyloid which occurs exacerbated in the extra cellular space forming senile plaques. During the elimination of toxins that occur in sleep, the beta amyloid protein that has increased during wakefulness is also eliminated. This suggests that the elimination of beta amyloid is not effective during sleep in Alzheimer's and may encourage research on the connection that this disease, like many others, has with many sleep disorders.

Links of interest

Brain may flush out toxins during sleep. (2013). //www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/brain-may-flush-out-toxins-during-sleep

Brains Sweep The Self Clean Of Toxins During Sleep (2013) //www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/10/18/236211811/brains-sweep-the myself-clean-of-toxins-during-sleep?t = 1549904085728