Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers uncover steps in synapse building, pruning

Date:
November 17, 2011
Source:
Jackson Laboratory
Summary:
The brain is constantly building networks of synapses, while pruning out redundant or unneeded synapses. Researchers have discovered a factor in synapse-building, also showing that the building and pruning processes occur independent of each other.

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.

Related Articles


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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Jackson Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hao Wang, Hong Liu, Zhong-Wei Zhang. Elimination of Redundant Synaptic Inputs in the Absence of Synaptic Strengthening. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011; 31 (46): 16675-16684 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4569-11.2011

Cite This Page:

Jackson Laboratory. "Researchers uncover steps in synapse building, pruning." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111116162242.htm>.
Jackson Laboratory. (2011, November 17). Researchers uncover steps in synapse building, pruning. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111116162242.htm
Jackson Laboratory. "Researchers uncover steps in synapse building, pruning." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111116162242.htm (accessed November 25, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) — A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) — Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins