Water for better learning results
Water is essential for the maintenance of our health. It plays an important role in levelling the body temperature, it delivers nourishment and oxygen to the cells, flushes away the 'useless stuff', and protects the organs as well as the tissues. Water is a part of practically all physical processes in our bodies. What about our mental health? What role does water play in our brains’ functions and consequently our mental processes? Does it have an influence on schoolchildren’s success?
‘’Water is essential for a healthy brain,’’ writes Dr Philippa Norman in her article about healthy brains. ‘’Place two fists together, with your inner wrists touching. Your brain is about this size and shape. In contrast to the rubbery pink models we have seen, the brain is amazingly soft, composed primarily of fat and water. It is greyish and pudding-like – composed of 100 billion brain cells – called neurons, that drive our thinking, learning, feeling and states of being. Neurons need good fats, protein, complex carbohydrates, micronutrients – vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients – and water. These nutrients are used to drive the learning functions of the neurons.’’
Mental processes are actually chemical processes in our brain. Our every action, thought, spoken word (so everything we do) is triggered by different chemical compounds (neurotransmitters) which carry information to certain neurons. For a fast and quality transmission of neurotransmitters among the neurons through synapses, the membrane’s muscle tone is a crucial element. This is where water steps in because sufficient hydration is the most important condition for muscle tone maintenance. We can say that quality food (for the creation of neurotransmitters) and water (for their transport) are crucial for good and efficient mental processes.
Researches have shown that we have already lost 2% of water in our body when we feel thirsty, and cognitive efficiency is lower by 10%! Next to its direct effect, dehydration also has indirect effects – a dehydrated person is tired, unfocused and demotivated. Just think about your efficiency on a hot summer day. This condition additionally lowers the efficiency of our mental processes. This article from the Telegraph webpage writes about similar results: ‘’Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry in London and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, have found that teenagers' brains work less efficiently when they become dehydrated, making tasks such as problem solving far harder. The researchers carried out brain scans on ten teenagers who were asked to perform 90 minutes of exercise to induce moderate dehydration before being given a series of problem solving and reaction time tests. Although the children lost just 1.1% of their body weight through dehydration during the tasks, the study showed that their brains had to work harder to carry out the same task when dehydrated. The children's ability to perform the tasks did not change, but functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans revealed increased neural effort in key parts of their brains such as the middle frontal gyrus and the inferior parietal lobule – key areas in problem solving and learning.’’