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Our brain has a delete button

    Our brain is like a garden

    Imagine that our brain is a garden, except that instead of growing flowers, fruits and vegetables, we grow synaptic connections between neurons. These connections transmit neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and others.

    There are also gardeners in our brains – glial cells that can speed up signals between certain neurons. At the same time, other glial cells clean up everything unnecessary: remove weeds, kill pests, sweep up fallen leaves. These gardeners-cleaners of our brain are called “microglial cells”. They destroy synaptic connections. The question is how they choose which bonds to break.

    Researchers are only just beginning to unlock this mystery, but they already know for sure that those synaptic connections that we use less than others are marked with the C1q protein (and others). When microglial cells see this label, they react with the protein and destroy—that is, cut off—the synapse. In this way, our brain makes room for new, stronger connections so that we can remember more.

    Почему так важен сон?

    When we learn a lot of new things, the brain builds new connections, but some of them are inefficient and temporary. He must cut off all these connections and build clearer and more efficient paths in their place. This is what our brain does while we sleep – glial cells remove excess and cut off unnecessary synapses.

    Have you ever woken up after a good night’s sleep with clear thoughts and a clear head? This was because, as a result of the clearing and strengthening of connections that occurred at night, there is now a lot of room in our brain to receive and synthesize new information.


    For the same reason, small breaks for sleep improve our cognitive abilities. If we go for a 10-20 minute nap, then our microglial gardeners will have the opportunity to work – remove unused connections and make room for new ones to be built.

    Engaging in mental activity with a long absence of sleep is the same as hacking through the dense jungle with a machete. It is difficult, slow and tiring. The paths are intertwined and the light cannot penetrate. Mental activity after a good rest is a pleasant walk through a tidy park, the paths do not overlap, and you can see your way far ahead.

    Think about what you think!

    In fact, we have the ability to decide which connections our brain will break while we sleep. The synaptic connections that we do not use are exposed to cleaning. Those connections that we use will receive everything necessary for growth. Therefore, we need to control what we think about.

    If we had a conflict with someone at work, and now we think about how to punish this person, and not about how to cope with an important project, our brain will generate great ideas for revenge and mediocre ideas for innovation.

    To make the most of our brain’s natural cleaning system, we need to think about what is really important to us. Our gardeners will strengthen these connections and remove unnecessary ones. This is how we can help our brains flourish.

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