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Sleep ‘boosts brain cell numbers’

English: Complete neuron cell diagram with lar...

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UoW) have discovered another reason why sleep is great! Resting boosts the growth of special cells — called oligodendrocytes — that repair the brain when it is injured, according to new findings reported in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“For a long time, sleep researchers focused on how the activity of nerve cells differs when animals are awake versus when they are asleep,” said lead author Dr. Chiara Cirelli, a sleep neuroscientist at UoW. “Now it is clear that the way other supporting cells in the nervous system operate also changes significantly depending on whether the animal is asleep or awake.”

Oligodendrocytes are one brand of support cells found in the brain. They produce a substance called myelin, which coats the ‘wiring’ that connects different neurons together and accelerates the rate at which they can send messages back and forth to each other. If normal neuron chatter is like “e-mail,” then cognition without myelin is like using smoke signals.


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