A Boston University (BU) study was published recently in the journal Science about the cleansing of toxins during sleep. While scientists knew about the cleansing of brain toxins, there was never a clarity about the process of this clearance.
Through this new study, researchers have finally explained the clear process of how these toxins can be cleared from your brain during your sleep. They are hoping to apply this information for the treatment of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases like Dementia.
Laura D. Lewis, a Biomedical Engineer, leads the team of BU researchers investigating non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is a deep phase of slumber sleep that is dreamless. According to the team’s previous studies, when the rodents are asleep, many of the toxins are cleared. Otherwise, these toxins always have a chance of developing into neurodegenerative diseases, which are cleared during the non-REM unconsciousness.
The non-REM sleep is sometimes associated with retention of memory and happens usually earlier in the night.
Speaking about the brain’s blood oxygen and fluid level, Lewis said, “We had a sense each of these metrics was important, but how they change during sleep and how they relate to each other during sleep was uncharted territory for us.”
Researchers have now found out that during non-REM sleep, there is a clearance of cerebrospinal fluid. There are waves of this fluid that slowly wash over the brain and, thus, neutrons begin to synchronise. This is a system that switches on and off simultaneously. Lewis said that they could see an elective wave where all the neurons would become quiet.
When these neutrons are turned-off and non-firing, it means that there is less blood flow to the brain. This creates a space for the fluid to fill and then flush out the accumulated metabolic byproducts like the beta-amyloid.
The “Brain Plaque”
As per the Stanford scientists, if this protein or ‘brain plaque’ is not cleared, it can lead to “a cascade of biochemical activities culminating the destruction of synapses.” This damage can eventually lead to neurodegenerative diseases that can be irreversible.
Lewis and her team will be working in the coming future on the scope of this development and they subsequently want to develop this as a medicine for Alzheimer’s.
Check back this space for more information soon!