Portions of the brain fall asleep and wake back up all the time, researchers find

“Low energy states

A question that comes out of this work is why the neurons cycle into a lower activity state when we’re awake. Why not just stay in the more active state all the time in case that’s when the saber tooth tiger attacks?

One answer could relate to energy. “There is a metabolic cost associated with neurons firing all the time,” Boahen said.

The brain uses a lot of energy and maybe giving the cells a chance to do the energetic equivalent of sitting down allows the brain to save energy.

Also, when neurons are very active they generate cellular byproducts that can damage the cells. Engel pointed out that the low-activity states could allow time to clear out this neuronal waste.


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