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The Brain Has a ‘Low-Power Mode’ That Blunts Our Senses


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Anyone have anecdotes for or against this in humans?

 

"Neuroscientists uncovered an energy-saving mode in vision-system neurons that works at the cost of being able to see fine-grained details.

...

in a paper published in Neuron in January, neuroscientists in Nathalie Rochefort’s lab at the University of Edinburgh have revealed an energy-saving strategy in the visual systems of mice. They found that when mice were deprived of sufficient food for weeks at a time—long enough for them to lose 15 to 20 percent of their typical healthy weight—neurons in the visual cortex reduced the amount of ATP used at their synapses by a sizable 29 percent.

 

But the new mode of processing came with a cost to perception: It impaired how the mice saw details of the world. Because the neurons in low-power mode processed visual signals less precisely, the food-restricted mice performed worse on a challenging visual task.

...

A significant implication of the new findings is that much of what we know about how brains and neurons work may have been learned from brains that researchers unwittingly put into low-power mode. It is extremely common to restrict the amount of food available to mice and other experimental animals for weeks before and during neuroscience studies to motivate them to perform tasks in return for a food reward."

 

https://www.wired.com/story/the-brain-has-a-low-power-mode-that-blunts-our-senses/

https://www.cell.com/neuron/fulltext/S0896-6273(21)00839-4

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16 hours ago, BrianA said:

"Neuroscientists uncovered an energy-saving mode in vision-system neurons that works at the cost of being able to see fine-grained details.

...

in a paper published in Neuron in January, neuroscientists in Nathalie Rochefort’s lab at the University of Edinburgh have revealed an energy-saving strategy in the visual systems of mice. They found that when mice were deprived of sufficient food for weeks at a time—long enough for them to lose 15 to 20 percent of their typical healthy weight—neurons in the visual cortex reduced the amount of ATP used at their synapses by a sizable 29 percent.

 

But the new mode of processing came with a cost to perception: It impaired how the mice saw details of the world. Because the neurons in low-power mode processed visual signals less precisely, the food-restricted mice performed worse on a challenging visual task.

...

A significant implication of the new findings is that much of what we know about how brains and neurons work may have been learned from brains that researchers unwittingly put into low-power mode. It is extremely common to restrict the amount of food available to mice and other experimental animals for weeks before and during neuroscience studies to motivate them to perform tasks in return for a food reward."

 

https://www.wired.com/story/the-brain-has-a-low-power-mode-that-blunts-our-senses/

 

Hi Brian!

This is fascinating -- and perhaps relevant to many us.  Most of us are on some level of calorie restriction -- and the article strongly suggests the possibility that this may dull some of our senses somewhat; the study involved acuity of vision in mice, but (according to the opinions cited by the neuroscientists in the article) might be likely to effect other senses, and possibly even other brain functions, such as forming memories.

However, to the best of my knowledge, there has been no evidence of such effects in studies of calorie restricted humans -- but that doesn't mean that the very subtle effects described in the article or other very subtle effects haven't occurred in the study of calorie restricted humans, as those studies weren't looking for such extremely subtle effects.

  --  Saul

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