A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.
Scientists have long debated whether Alzheimer’s disease starts in separate regions of the brain independently and at different times, or if it begins in one region and then spreads. Data from researchers at Columbia University Medical Center supports the latter model, showing that abnormal tau protein — a key feature observed in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease — propagates along anatomically connected networks, between connected and vulnerable neurons. The study was published earlier this month in the online journal PLoS ONE .
Key cells in the brain region known as the hippocampus are formed in the base of the brain late in fetal life and undertake a long journey before reaching their final destination in the center of the brain shortly after birth, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).