February 4, 2016

A new study, funded in part by NEI, sheds light on the innate plasticity of the adult brain at its most fundamental level — the synapse. Researchers from the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory published in the Feb. 4 online edition of Neuron.

Neuron-to-neuron communication that allows the brain to coordinate activity and store new information takes place at synapses. If an outside stimulus doesn’t enact a synaptic change, it doesn’t register — no learning or memory formation takes place. Synapses can be strengthened or weakened, or even added and eliminated in response to new information. Synaptic malfunctions are implicated in certain diseases. A better understanding of how synapses are formed and dismantled in response to external stimuli can help address a wide range of disorders from drug addiction to mental illness.