The star-shaped Astrocytes are essential to the support of cells in the brain and spinal cord.: image via Wikipedia.org If that nasty comment made by a co-worker is playing over and over again in your mind... Or the middle finger you saw in your rear view mirror repeatedly reminds you that you were in the right... Or worrying about a presentation you have to give tomorrow is keeping you from enjoying a night out with your honey... Research at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine reveals that trying to get rid of these thoughts is worse for your health than having the thoughts.
Researchers, including physiologists, biophysicists, and mathematicians built a computer model of what goes on in the brain during thought and thought resistance. They used a software program called Metabolica, designed by two mathematicians involved in the study, to produce a numeric rendering of the excitatory and inhibitory neurons in action.
Excitatory neurons transmit thoughts, and inhibitory neurons, like priests, intervene to stop the thoughts. In doing so, inhibitory neurons release gamma
aminobutyric acid (GABA), which fights with the glutamate, released by the excitatory neurons, for
superiority. Astrocytes, normally very supportive cells, essential to many functions in the brain and spinal column, plainly have enough responsibilities in the brain, but this mess brought about by the glutamate and the GABA, needs the astrocytes to 'clean it up' and recycle both substances.
Astrocytes need more oxygen to do this job and, for that, the blood supply to the brain must be increased. The repetition of the thought stopping process, therefore, uses far more energy than thinking. And the excessive call to increase blood flow to the brain, it is suspected, be a causal factor in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
Though further study is forthcoming and necessary to prove this link, the Case Western mathematical model provides a sound framework for it, and may even be the beginnings of a method of early identification of neurodengerative disease.