As you walk and look around the library, look around classrooms, and peer at the students sitting in Cotter Union or in the Alfond Athletic Center, what do they all have in common? This answer is probably not what you are expecting: they almost all have a water bottle accompanying them. It might be one covered with stickers next to their computer, colorfully hanging out of the side pocket of their backpack, or dangling from their fingertips. We know water is vital to our everyday health because 70% of our body is made up of water. We also know from previous experience that feeling “dehydrated” is not fun and negatively impacts us both physically and mentally. With this thought in mind, I was curious to see how much water plays a part in brain functions. I started to ask myself, what long-term effects might occur if dehydration happens, or even to what extent water is essential for daily functioning?
It is shown that our brains rely on proper hydration in order to function at the optimal level. Specifically, our brain cells need a balance between water and other elements in order to operate efficiently. When this balance is disrupted through lack of proper hydration, it leads to a decrease in the efficiency of the brain. Several problems arise when this happens, we have trouble staying focused and it affects our short-term memory and arithmetic that helps us decide how much time it will take to get ready in the morning if we snooze our alarm clock (Gowin). As you can see, when the brain is deprived of water, it deprives a person of functioning to their best ability.
I listened to a lecture online from world-class researcher and specialist Dr. Corinne Allen about the brain and the effects of dehydration. She had some interesting facts and comments. She started off by giving a set of statistics; as little as 1-2% reduction of water in the brain can mean problems with concentration and thinking. It is amazing that this small percentage deduction in hydration can cause humans to feel tired and unfocused. Significantly, a 20% reduction can mean death. She went on to explain that brain dehydration can arouse feelings of depression and anxiety caused by improper function that uses up amino acids that keep our brain happy and working efficiently. On a deeper level, severe dehydration or chronic dehydration can cause serious depression and anxiety by reducing ATP needed for cellular energy. Along with this description of dehydration, Allen raised an interesting point that several psychiatric drugs, blood pressure medicines, antihistamines, and diuretics have a level of symptoms that accompany them like nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. These symptoms are produced because the drugs are causing dehydration. People who are on psychiatric drugs are having their brain dried out due to the pulling away of water from the neurotransmissions that are essential for full brain function. Some of Allen’s other research focuses on newborn babies and the importance hydration during pregnancy. Dehydration plays an important part in the brain and it is essential that we do our best to consume water daily.
Gowin, Joshua. “Why Your Brain Needs Water.” Psychology Today. 1 Jan. 2010. Web. 1 Feb. 2015. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/you-illuminated/201010/why-your-brain-needs-water>.
Allen, Corinne. “Dr. Corinne Allen: Your Brain On Water.” World News. World News, . 1 Feb. 2013. Lecture.