LOS ANGELES (October 17, 2013)--A new study suggests the brain goes on a cleaning spree during sleep, flushing out gunk that builds up while people are awake.
Scientists observed the cleaning in mice, but think the same thing happens in humans, according to findings reported in Friday's issue of the journal Science.
The discovery may provide new clues to treat Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.
People who are sleep-deprived have trouble learning and making decisions, but despite decades of research, scientists can't agree on the basic purpose of sleep.
For the study, researchers led by the University of Rochester Medical Center observed the brains of mice while awake and asleep and found that cellular waste flowed faster out of the brains of sleeping mice than mice that were awake.