the form in which the body stores carbohydrates, is the energy supply that vital organs such as the heart and brain use to survive anoxia. "Glycogen is commonly found in the liver and in the muscles, but glycogen stores were generally believed to be minimal in the brain," Paajanen said.
In an earlier study, Paajanen and Vornanen found the carp stored extra glycogen in the heart during winter. In the current study, they hypothesized that the crucian carp brain has vast stores of glycogen, too, which it draws on when oxygen runs out.
Water temperature, not oxygen, acts as trip
The researchers spent 12 months gathering 20-30 carp each month from a fish trap they set in a nearby pond. They began the experiment in May 2002 and finished in June 2003, tracking water temperature and examining the brains of the fish shortly after removing them from the pond.
They found that as the water got colder in October and November, the carp began to consume less energy (sodium pump slows) and build up their glycogen (carbohydrate) stores, even though the water still had plenty of oxygen.
The study fund that glycogen and the sodium pump play equally important roles in carrying the fish through the anoxic period. The glycogen level that supports brain function for 16 hours in the anoxic winter when energy demand is low, would support the fish for only eight minutes in the summer with the same amount of oxygen. That is because energy demand rises as the water temperature rises, Paajanen noted.
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