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article imageDoes sleep 'wash out' the brain?

By Tim Sandle     Oct 19, 2013 in Science
Does sleep help the body to wash away toxins and other unwanted chemicals? New research suggests that sleep clears out interstitial clutter in the mouse brain.
Specifically, scientists now think that the benefits of sleep may originate outside of our neurons and within the interstitial space between cells. During sleep, this space expands by 60 percent. Researchers are of the view that this is an effective way to clear away toxins.
For the study, the research group looked at mice. The study showed that the mouse glymphatic system—which exchanges cleansing cerebrospinal fluid for protein-laden interstitial fluid in the brain—enlarges during sleep or anesthesia, and shrinks during awake periods.
To test the detox power of sleep, the group demonstrated that a protein fragment called β-amyloid, located in the interstitial space, disappeared faster while animals were sleeping. β-amyloid is best known as a component of amyloid plaques in association with Alzheimer's disease.
Commenting on the research, the lead scientist, Maiken Nedergaard, the co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, said in a research note: "Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state."
To add to this, Raphaelle Winsky-Sommerer, a lecturer in sleep at Surrey University, told the BBC: “The novelty is the role of the interstitial space, but I think it's an added piece of the puzzle, not the whole mechanism.”
The new research has been published in the journal Science. The paper is titled "Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain."
More about Brain, Sleep, Toxins, Dreams, Mice
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