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 Dead cells disrupt how immune cells respond to wounds and patrol for infection
21.05.2019 | University of Sheffield

nachricht New study shows: Tropical corals reflect ocean acidification
21.05.2019 | Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenforschung (ZMT)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

Im Focus: Recording embryonic development

Scientists develop a molecular recording tool that enables in vivo lineage tracing of embryonic cells

The beginning of new life starts with a fascinating process: A single cell gives rise to progenitor cells that eventually differentiate into the three germ...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Synthesis of helical ladder polymers

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

Ultra-thin superlattices from gold nanoparticles for nanophotonics

21.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

Chaperones keep the tumor suppressor protein p53 in check: How molecular escorts help prevent cancer

21.05.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>