How A Good Night's Sleep Can Literally Clean Out The Brain

University of Rochester scientists discovered that during sleep, the space between brain cells widens, allowing additional cerebrospinal fluid to flush out toxic molecules. Some of these have been linked to neurodegenerative diseases.

What's the Latest Development?

While studying the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the brains of mice as controlled by the glymphatic system, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center made an unexpected discovery: When the mice were asleep or anesthetized, the spaces between brain cells widened by 60 percent, allowing more CSF to flow between them and, in the process, clear away molecules that have been linked to certain neurodegenerative disorders when found in accumulated amounts. Details of the study were recently published in Science.

What's the Big Idea?

The restorative powers of a good night's sleep may go deeper than was previously thought, as evidenced by this and a number of other studies. The University of Rochester researchers decided to inject mice with a protein commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease to see how long it lasted in their brains. They found that it disappeared much more quickly when the mice were asleep than it did when they were awake. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and program director Jim Koenig says the test results "may have broad implications for multiple neurological disorders."

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