House of Mind

"Biology gives you a brain. Life turns it into a mind" - Jeffrey Eugenides

  • 28th June
  • 28

How does the brain get rid of its waste?

The current issue of Science features an interesting perspective article titled Garbage Truck of the Brain that talks about mechanisms underlying the clearance of cellular debris. 

The author makes an excellent point:

Essentially all neurodegenerative diseases are associated with misaccumulation of cellular waste products. 

Of these, misfolded or hyperphosphorylated proteins are among the most difficult for the brain to dispose. For example, tau and β-amyloid can accumulate as stable aggregates that are neurotoxic in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease…

To discover underlying mechanisms of waste clearance in the brain, researchers have implanted a window into the skull of mice and used two-photon imaging techniques that allow them to directly observe the movemement of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) through the living brain! 

The researchers found that the brain itself is surrounded by a membrane called the arachnoid and bathed in cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). CSF flows into the interior of the brain through the same pathways as the arteries that carry blood and is drawn into brain tissue via a system of conduits that are controlled by astrocytes ( a type of glia). The CSF is flushed through the brain tissue at high speeds, which sweeps away excess “garbage” that might be located in the brain. The fluid and waste are exchanged with a similar system that parallels veins which carries the waste out of the brain and down the spine where it is eventually transferred to the lymphatic system and from there to the liver, where it is ultimately broken down.The scientists decided to coin this newly discovered system the “glymphatic system.”


Convective glymphatic fluxes of CSF and ISF propel the waste products of neuron metabolism into the paravenous space, from which they are directed into lymphatic vessels and ultimately return to the general circulation for clearance by the kidney and liver.



Maiken Nedergaard. (2013). Garbage truck of the brain. Science. 340: 1529-30. 

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    this reminds me of a colleague’s research presentation last year..
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