-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, July 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- The human brain can
preserve oxygen to protect itself from the effects of dehydration,
a new study finds.
Although dehydration significantly reduces blood flow to the
brain, researchers in England have found that the brain compensates
by increasing the amount of oxygen it extracts from the blood.
"This research has helped us understand a lot more about how the human brain responds to extreme exercise in extreme conditions," study first author Steven Trangmar, a researcher at Brunel University, said in a university news release. "We can now see that blood flow to this vital organ is significantly affected by dehydration. But we can also see that this is when the brain kicks in, preserving its own oxygen consumption to ensure it sustains its function."
This coping mechanism is likely what enables athletes who become
dehydrated during exercise to keep going. The study authors
cautioned, however, that their findings should serve as a reminder
of the importance of proper hydration, noting that getting enough
fluids is essential for athletes who want to maintain peak
"These findings show that the brain has remarkable ways of protecting itself from extreme circumstances, however they also clearly substantiate the recommendation that people should ingest fluids during exercise to help optimize physiological function and performance," Jose Gonzalez-Alonso, a professor of exercise and cardiovascular physiology at Brunel University, said in the news release.
In conducting the study, the researchers inserted catheters in
the brachial artery and internal jugular vein of 10 experienced
male cyclists. Using the catheters and Doppler ultrasound
technology, they measured the blood flow of the cyclists as they
rode a bike to exhaustion in heat.
As they became dehydrated, the cyclists developed reduced body
mass, brain blood flow and ability to exercise, as well as an
increase in their internal body temperature.
The findings were published recently in the
Journal of Physiology.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers tips
on how to
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