Forget gigabytes. Even the most powerful computers available today are mere playthings compared to the complexity, efficiency, and information processing capacity of the human brain. Underlying the brain's far superior design are the billion-million or so connections between brain cells—called synapses—that form vast neural networks in which brain cells, or neurons, are each connected to thousands of other neurons. These networks—and their ability to be shaped by experience—enable us to receive, process, store, and retrieve all manner of information about our world. Unfortunately, the extremely tiny size of synapses and the limitations of conventional experimental techniques have hampered detailed studies of these essential structures. (One trillion synaptic compartments, or "dendritic spines," could fit into a thimble). Now, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory have overcome these technical obstacles to gain an extremely close look at the properties of dendritic spines and synapses that govern brain function.
The above story is based on materials provided by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.