Science: Our brains have a “power saving” mode


In the technology industry, it has always been said that a large part of the creations of the human being are a reflection of the functioning of our own organism, despite the fact that, as paradoxical as it may seem, the brain is the organism that has the most mysteries for science.

With the aim of delving into this organism, a laboratory at the University of Edinburgh developed an experiment where a kind of “energy saving” was discovered that our brain uses as part of a strategy in the visual systems of its cells.

According to the study published in the specialized journal Neuron, it was found that neurons in the visual cortex reduced the amount of ATP used by up to 29%. This after subjecting a group of animals to food restrictions, where it was observed how the protagonists were more susceptible to failures related to sight, which has determined that the sense of sight has reduced its capabilities.

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study details

To carry out this study, experiments were carried out with mice that were exposed to a certain diet to observe their behavior.

“We characterized the impact of dietary restriction on ATP usage and coding accuracy in V1 layer 2/3 neurons of awake mice. Adult male mice were given ad libitum access to food (control group) or food restricted to 85% of their body weight over the course of 2-3 weeks (food restricted group). All animals were given ad libitum access to food for 1-3 h prior to recording until satiated. This allowed us to study the impact of long-term caloric restriction independently of the short-term stress-related and metabolic changes associated with starvation.

worrying reaction

The scientists behind this experiment made the comparison with the operation of this mode in smartphones, where although the “energy saving mode” aims to prolong the charging duration, the reality is that to do so, it prevents normal development of the cell phone. Adapting that in humans can be detrimental.

“What you get in this low-power mode is more of a low-resolution image of the world,” said Zahid Padamsey, the first author of the new study.

Highlighting the importance of food, University of Michigan neuroscientist Christian Burgess and colleagues discovered in 2016 that when mice viewed an image they associated with food, an area of ​​their visual cortex showed more neural activity if they were hungry ; after they ate, that activity decreased. Similarly, imaging studies in humans have found that food images evoke stronger responses in some brain areas when subjects are hungry compared to after they have eaten.

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Whether you’re hungry or not, “the photons hitting your retinas are the same,” Burgess said. “But the representation in your brain is very different because you have this goal that your body knows you need, and it’s directing attention in a way that will help satisfy that.”

The results of this new study allow laying the groundwork for future studies on food and its impact on the brain.

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