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Thinking is Hard. So is Not Thinking.

Posted By Prucia Buscell, Thursday, September 23, 2010
Updated: Thursday, February 17, 2011
Need a runaway thought ramp for your brain?

Mathematicians at Case Western Reserve University may have discovered part of the reason it's so hard to turn off ruminations about your latest joy or trauma, and why you sometimes can't stop carrying your work thoughts home. A ScienceDaily story, "Why Thinking of Nothing Can be So Tiring: Brain Wolfs Energy to Stop Thinking," explains how scientists studied the amount of energy it takes to stop thought.

Mathematics Professors Daniela Calvetti and Erkki Somersalo and researcher Rossana Occhipinti developed equations and statistics to build a computer model of brain metabolism. Calvettti and Somersalo designed Metabolica, a software package used to study complex metabolic systems. The story explains the brain has excitatory neurons, which transmit thought, and inhibitory neurons that restrain thought. Brain cells called astrocytes bring essential chemicals and functions to both kinds of neurons. In fact, Somersalo calls astrocytes "the Cinderellas of the brain" because their labor makes them require large quantities of oxygen. Stopping a thought, these scientists say, takes a surprising amount of energy-something akin to stopping a truck on a downhill slope.

Because many brain maladies involve energy metabolism, this research could shed light on neurodegenerative diseases and perhaps pave the way for earlier diagnosis. Read the Science Daily story and the research in Journal of Cerebral Blood Flow & Metabolism.

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