What Are Some Effects of Dehydration on the Brain?

The effect of dehydration on brain function depends on the severity of dehydration. Mild dehydration may adversely affect mood, energy levels or ability to concentrate, according to Psych Central. Severe or prolonged dehydration may cause serious cognitive impairment, delirium, permanent brain damage or death, reports Mayo Clinic.

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it takes in and thus does not have enough water to function properly. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and can cause irritability, confusion, delirium and unconsciousness, reports Mayo Clinic. Some people may also experience brain damage when replenishing fluids to treat dehydration. In these cases, the body may pull too much fluid into cells, leading to cerebral edema.

Some research shows that long-term dehydration may affect executive brain function, reports PubMed. For older people the effects of dehydration on brain function may be especially serious, the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates. Dehydration may impair memory processing and cognitive function in these people, leading to a reduced quality of life.

Even mild dehydration may have adverse affects on the brain, as Psych Central reports. Research shows that mild dehydration can cause mood changes and difficulty concentrating. Research also shows that while women experience more significant symptoms of anxiety or tension when mildly dehydrated, men experience more significant difficulty with mental tasks when mildly dehydrated.

To avoid dehydration, Psych Central recommends drinking about eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day. Urine of people who are properly hydrated is usually pale yellow.