April 12, 2009, 5:37 pm
Sleep cleans up the brain
New evidence in fruit flies shows the importance of proteins in helping the brain feel fresh and ready to go...
Feeling bright and perky today? Chances are that you had a good night's sleep then... and that means that you brain had the chance to get rid of the proteins that can make us feel "muddle headed" when we don't sleep well.
Where are these proteins in the brain?
They are found in the gaps between nerve cells - called synapses .
One of these proteins is called Bruchpilot (BRP) and it helps nerve cells (neurons) send impulses to communicate with other nerve cells.
Too many of such proteins, which build up during the day, don't allow our brains to learn well - think about how tough lessons (or exams!) feel when you've had a long day or have slept very late the night before
So sleep is important to lower the level of the proteins like BRP - a kind of down-scaling of synapses occurs so that only the strongest ones are kept in a weaker form with fewer proteins, to start a new day fresh with learning potential!
Similar cleaning out processes have been observed by scientists in fruit flies and rats - so it is likely that many more animals' brains also clean up during sleep - the dolphin in the photo certainly looks bright and happy, ready to learn... probably had a good night's sleep!
A bit too obvious really - but a good sleep is the best action of the day (or perhaps I should say 'night'!)