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You will have heard the term brainwashed before but new research means that it may take on a new meaning. The term originally meant that someone had been persuaded or coerced to obey another, it has been the subject of many books and movies and a number of totalitarian regimes have used it to control their populations. Now though, it may take on a far more literal interpretation, because scientists have found out that your brain is actually washed as you sleep.
Toxic build up
It seems that sleeping helps the body clear all the harmful waste that naturally builds up in the brain during the waking hours. Scientists studied mice and found that while they slept their brains were “washed” of the toxins that had built up during the day. Amongst other things, the toxins are believed to be the cause of brain disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.
The study has shown that the brain has different functional states when it is asleep and awake and that sleep’s restorative nature can be seen at work in the brain as it is cleared of the by-products of neural activity as we sleep. Our brains are washed as we sleep, all the harmful toxins that build up are removed. In the rest of our body the lymphatic system is responsible for disposing of our cellular waste but this system does not extend to the brain. For years scientists had wondered how the brain was able to remove this waste without the lymphatic system.
The new study
The new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center for Translational Neuromedicine used new imaging equipment to examine the brains of the subject mice to help them find out how the brain was removing the waste. They found out that the brain had a special method of clearing the toxins, which is referred to as the glymphatic system, which is protected by a complicated gateway referred to as the blood-brain barrier. The glymphatic system uses blood vessels that feed the oxygen hungry brain to pump spinal fluid across the brain tissue, helping to remove the waste that has built up.
The researchers had seen that the brain used more energy when it slept and this had clued them to the possibility that this was when they brain cleaned itself. The pumping of the spinal fluid across the brain is a high energy process and it makes sense that it is done when we sleep as this is the time when the brain has excess energy available as it is not processing as much information. As with anything, the brain has only a limited amount of energy it can use and using reserve energy that it doesn’t need when it is asleep to clean the brain makes sense.
So while brainwashing can mean you are being forced to obey someone else, it can now also mean that you are washing away the harmful toxins in your mind, helping to keep it healthy and ensuring you do not get a brain disorder.
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