Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers uncover steps in synapse building, pruning

17.11.2011
Like a gardener who stakes some plants and weeds out others, the brain is constantly building networks of synapses, while pruning out redundant or unneeded synapses. Researchers at The Jackson Laboratory led by Assistant Professor Zhong-wei Zhang, Ph.D., have discovered a factor in synapse-building, also showing that the building and pruning processes occur independent of each other.

Mammals are born with functioning but not-yet-developed brains. After birth, external stimuli and internal programs continue to shape the connections between neurons, known as synapses, and the formation of networks of synapses known as neuronal circuits.

Some grow stronger, some grow weaker, redundant connections are eliminated, and so on. Such "plasticity," the ongoing refinement of neural connections and networks, continues throughout life, albeit more subtly with time and maturation.

Much about plasticity remains unknown. How the neural circuits are modified, what controls the modification, the mechanics of strengthening or eliminating specific synapses and much more are subjects of ongoing research. Besides gaining a better picture of normal brain development, scientists seek to understand the errors in synapse building and pruning that are associated with autism, mental retardation and schizophrenia.

Zhang and colleagues investigated a major type of synapse in the brain (called the glutamatergic synapse) that undergoes rapid refinement soon after birth. What they discovered is that these synapses are strengthened through the addition of a particular kind of glutamate receptors, beginning about a week after birth for mice. Notably, sensory deprivation disrupts the strengthening of the synapses, highlighting the role of early experience in synapse building.

In a somewhat surprising finding, the Zhang lab also discovered that the elimination of redundant synapses was not dependent on the other synapses' being strengthened. Since synaptic strengthening usually precedes removal of redundant synapses, it was not known if such elimination is dependent on the prior strengthening. In mice lacking the receptor, which prevented significant strengthening of synaptic connections, redundant synapses were eliminated as usual.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., a planned facility in Farmington, Conn., and a total staff of about 1,400. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human disease, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community.

Wang et al.: Elimination of redundant synaptic inputs in the absence of synaptic strengthening. Journal of Neuroscience, Nov. 16, 2011, DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4569-11.2011

Joyce Peterson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.jax.org

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein
24.01.2017 | Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

nachricht Choreographing the microRNA-target dance
24.01.2017 | UT Southwestern Medical Center

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Scientists spin artificial silk from whey protein

X-ray study throws light on key process for production

A Swedish-German team of researchers has cleared up a key process for the artificial production of silk. With the help of the intense X-rays from DESY's...

Im Focus: Quantum optical sensor for the first time tested in space – with a laser system from Berlin

For the first time ever, a cloud of ultra-cold atoms has been successfully created in space on board of a sounding rocket. The MAIUS mission demonstrates that quantum optical sensors can be operated even in harsh environments like space – a prerequi-site for finding answers to the most challenging questions of fundamental physics and an important innovation driver for everyday applications.

According to Albert Einstein's Equivalence Principle, all bodies are accelerated at the same rate by the Earth's gravity, regardless of their properties. This...

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Breaking the optical bandwidth record of stable pulsed lasers

24.01.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Choreographing the microRNA-target dance

24.01.2017 | Life Sciences

Spanish scientists create a 3-D bioprinter to print human skin

24.01.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>