What does our brain do while we snooze?

Sleep—a favored activity by many, but a crucial habit for survival by nearly all animals.

So it’s no new news that scientists have long wondered why sleep is so important. It’s prompted many to explore what is really happening in our brain while we are off in dreamland.

yawnBut last week, researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center for Translational Neuromedicine in New York published their latest discovery in the journal Science that they hope will help answer this query.

They have learned that while we slumber away, our brain actively cleanses itself, essentially taking out the trash.

The brain makes use of its own glymphatic system, similar to the lymphatic system, to rush cerebral spinal fluid over the organ to remove leftover cellular waste that has accrued throughout the day.

(The lymphatic system does not extend to the brain, as there is a barrier that protects the brain, so the brain runs its own waste removal program, AKA the gylmphatic system.)

Two-photon microscopy, or fluorescent imaging of living tissue, was used on mice to learn what changes can be seen between wakefulness and sleep.

The scientist found that our brain cells even shrink when we sleep, thought to make the cleansing process more efficient, allowing the fluid to effectively clean out all the nooks and crannies.

The waste is swept to our blood and lastly on to the body’s equivalent of a landfill known as the liver, where it is ultimately removed.

So the researches propose the refreshed feeling after a good night’s sleep might be due to the cleansing of waste from our brain.

The team hopes this piece of the sleep puzzle will help shed light on new ways to treat neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, which results from a buildup of cellular waste in the brain.


There’s an app for that

Miss the headline last week about new gadgets to help you fall asleep? Yes, there’s an app for that. Check it out here.

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at JenBucciarelli@gmail.com.

Speak Your Mind