Thursday, May 20, 2010

Water on the brain: Grey matter literally shrinks without hydration

Water on the brain: Grey matter literally shrinks without hydration

By Fiona Macrae
Last updated at 8:33 AM on 20th May 2010

Rehydration: Starved of water the brain is forced to work harder

Failing to drink enough water can make your grey matter shrink, making it harder to think, experts have warned.

Research shows that dehydration not only affects the size of the brain but also how it works.

Just 90 minutes of steady sweating can shrink the brain as much as a year of ageing, researchers believe.

Starved of water, the grey matter is also forced to work harder to process the same information.

Over days and weeks, lack of fluid could impact on performance at work and school - and on exam results. But there is no need to panic - because after a glass of water or two the brain quickly returns to normal.

A team of scientists from around the UK scanned the brains of teenagers after an hour and a half of cycling

Some exercised in three layers of sweat-inducing clothing - including a binliner worn next to the skin, a hooded chemical warfare suit and a track suit. Others were much more lightly clad in shorts and t-shirts.

Those who were wrapped up lost around 2lb in sweat - and their brain tissue had shrunk away from their skulls.

Researchers Matthew Kempton and Ulrich Ettinger, of the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, said: 'We saw a general shrinking of the brain tissue.

'Fluid-filled cavities in the middle of the brain expanded and there was a corresponding shrinking of the brain tissue.

'The people who lost the most weight had the most shrinkage of the brain.'

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