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Sound sleep helps brain eliminate toxins, study shows

A new study has found that sleep helps in washing the cerebrospinal fluid and helps to clear the waste. It was known to researchers that sleep was important for cleaning process. However it was not clear how the cleaning process takes place.

The new study conducted by researchers at Boston University have found that during sleep, the cerebrospinal  fluid washes likes waves and helps to clean the brain of accumulated trash. The study constituted of 13 participants aged between 23-33 years and they agreed to have their brain scans done while they were asleep. The participants wore EEG caps with the help of which electrical activity was measured in the brains while they lay in MRI machine. People found it difficult to fall asleep because of the noisy environment of MRI.

It was found that cerebrospinal fluid synchronized with the brain waves which helped in the removal of brain waste. This waste contained toxic proteins which otherwise may cause build-ups that can affect information flow between the neurons. The researchers said that these findings may also help in understanding the underlying mechanisms in case of Alzheimer’s disease where the toxic plaques of protein plays an important role in loss of memory as well as other types of cognitive impairments.

It was found that with age, self-cleaning of brain reduces as the waves generated reduce which reduces blood flow in brain. The team wants to have an older cohort for conducting their next study to find out how cerebrospinal fluid is affected by natural aging. They also wanted to find out how the brain waves, blood flow in brain and cerebrospinal fluid synchronize themselves in flushing out waste.

The study co-author, Laura Lewis said that neural changes always happens first followed by blood flow out of head and then cerebrospinal fluid flow into head. The team said that during sleep the neurons remain switched off so they will need lesser oxygen leading to blood draining off from brain which reduces the pressure inside brain and this in turn leads to an increase in cerebrospinal fluid for maintaining pressure.

George Villalobos
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