The buzzword ’neuroplasticity’ defines our brain’s ability to change continuously, which allows us to remember, learn and adapt. It’s thought that our memories form when the neurons which relay electrical information develop stronger connections to create a meaningful network. These connections, called synapses, can be strengthened or weakened by molecular activity. Researchers investigated these seemingly opposing ways that neuroplasticity can manifest. They focused on spine-like structures found at synapses along the surface of neurons, and which can change size in response to changing connection strength. Contrary to expectations, the team showed that both weakening and strengthening of synapses can happen together. Here, these spines look like dots (blue) adorning the branches of a neuron (white) within a mouse’s hippocampus, a key structure for learning. Individual spines were identified with a high resolution, state-of-the-art laser technology called two-photon excitation microscopy.
Written by Deborah Oakley
- Image by Anna Hobbiss, Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown
- Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, Lisbon, Portugal
- Image copyright held by the original authors
- Research published in iScience, October 2018