Virtually all animals sleep, but scientists have had a hard time figuring out why that is. New research has apparently uncovered a major reason why our brains need to go out of consciousness on a regular basis: While we are asleep, toxins that build up in the brain get flushed out. Experiments with mice show that their brain cells actually shrink so that there is 60% more space between them, allowing fluid to wash them more effectively, sweeping out dead cells and Alzheimer’s-causing plaque, as well as chemical toxic wastes.
How lucky we are that so many random mutations came together to make this happen so as to allow us to sleep! I feel bad, though, about the animals that must have lived for millions of years before one of them, completely by chance, gained this survival advantage and spread it to all other species. Before they could sleep, living organisms must have been really grumpy.
After the jump, details about the discovery. [Read more…]