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WSU aims to find why we snooze

Fri., March 30, 2012

$1.3 million grant funds study of sleeping brain

Sleep researchers have netted a $1.3 million federal grant to study brain metabolism during rest.

It’s a four-year project that will be undertaken at Washington State University’s Sleep and Performance Research Center in Spokane.

Scientists want to better understand why the brain uses less energy when a person falls into a deep sleep.

The brain uses glucose as energy to fuel its electrical activity. It’s a demanding process. Though the brain accounts for about 3 percent of the body’s mass, it consumes up to 25 percent of the glucose used by the body.

Lead researcher Jonathan Wisor surmises that the brain uses deep sleep to reset its metabolic balance – in essence rinsing itself each day of unnecessary residue.

WSU describes the research possibility as an opportunity to scientifically explain why we sleep.

The study could also help scientists understand connections between some medical conditions and compromised brain metabolism.

“If we can understand the brain’s use of glucose in the context of the normal, healthy sleeping brain, there are potential applications for situations in which the brain becomes extremely metabolically vulnerable, such as during stroke, diabetes and complications of childbirth,” Wiser said in a WSU release describing the research.


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