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Dehydration Can Alter Human Brain, Affect Mental And Physical Performance

Dehydration occurs when your body has an insufficient amount of water. This insufficiency leads to disruption of the normal functioning of the body. Anyone can become dehydrated, however, it is more dangerous in older adults and children[1] . The common causes of dehydration are not drinking enough water, losing too much water through sweating, excessive vomiting and diarrhoea, fever, certain medications etc.

Severe dehydration can lead to low blood pressure, heat injuries, seizures and kidney problems [2] . According to a recent study, dehydration can alter the shape of the human brain and weakens one's ability to perform tasks.

Dehydration Can Cause Brain Swelling

The study, conducted by a group of researchers in a Georgia Institute of Technology found that when one gets dehydrated, a part of their bran swells up and causes the neural signalling to intensify. This, in turn, results in making even the simplest of tasks seem difficult doing [3] .

The researchers also studied the impact heat can have on an individual's body and it was asserted that exertion alone can cause weakness, however, water loss from body showed a twice bigger impact on the body's ability to carry out tasks.

According to the lead researcher Mindy Millard-Stafford, "we wanted to tease out whether exercise and heat stress alone have an impact on your cognitive function and study the effect of dehydration on top of that" [4] .

The researchers were examining the impact of exercise and heat on cognitive function and on doing that it was found that when the participants sweated and drank water, their ventricles in the centre of the brain contracted. And on examining exertion plus dehydration, the ventricles were shown to be expanding. However, the expansion of ventricles was not linked to weak task performance ability.

Changes In Brain Leads To Physiological State Of Dehydration

Matt Wittbrodt, another researcher in the study said, "the areas in the brain required for doing the task appeared to activate more intensely than before, and also, areas lit up that were not necessarily involved in completing the task."

And went on to assert that the other areas of the brain lighting up could be the body signalling that it is dehydrated. The study focused on the motor impact of the human body than cognitive complexity.

Now that you are aware of the perils of dehydration, make sure to follow these steps to prevent dehydration:

Drink plenty of water [5] [6] .
Eat foods with high amounts of water like fruits and vegetables.
Avoid or limit drinks with caffeine like coffee, teas and soft drinks.
Avoid or limit drinks with alcohol.
Set a "drink water" reminder on your phone.
Carry your own bottle of water.
Replace your fizzy drinks with water.

View Article References
  1. [1] Pachter, L. M., Weller, S. C., Baer, R. D., de Alba Garcia, J. E. G., Glazer, M., Trotter, R., ... & Gonzalez, E. (2016). Culture and Dehydration: A Comparative Study of Caída de la Mollera (Fallen Fontanel) in Three Latino Populations. Journal of immigrant and minority health, 18(5), 1066-1075.
  2. [2] Vidal, F., Peña, G., Hernández, R., Bertot, V., & Noda, S. V. (2016). Effect of homeopathic remedies and gentamicin in diarrhea in piglets. Revista de Investigaciones Veterinarias del Perú (RIVEP), 27(4), 792-798.
  3. [3] Cheuvront, S. N., & Kenefick, R. W. (2011). Dehydration: physiology, assessment, and performance effects. Comprehensive Physiology, 4(1), 257-285.
  4. [4] N.A.(2018, 22 Aug). Dehydration Can Affect Your Brain. Retrieved from,
  5. [5] McGaw, I. J., Van Leeuwen, T. E., Trehern, R. H., & Bates, A. E. (2019). Changes in precipitation may alter food preference in an ecosystem engineer, the black land crab, Gecarcinus ruricola. PeerJ, 7, e6818.
  6. [6] Wittbrodt, M. T. (2018). Does dehydration affect brain structure, function, and cognitive-motor performance? (Doctoral dissertation, Georgia Institute of Technology).