Washington [US], December 1 (ANI): Neuroscientists discovered that the brain">adult brain contains millions of 'silent synapses' immature connections between neurons that remain inactive until they're recruited to help form new memories.
Until now, it was believed that silent synapses were present only during early development when they help the brain learn the new information that it's exposed to early in life. However, a new MIT study revealed that in adult mice, about 30 per cent of all synapses in the brain's cortex are silent.
The existence of these silent synapses may help explain how the brain">adult brain can continually form new memories and learn new things without modifying existing conventional synapses, the researchers say.
"These silent synapses are looking for new connections, and connections between the relevant neurons are strengthened when important new information is presented. This lets the brain create new memories without overwriting the important memories stored in mature synapses, which are harder to change," says Dimitra Vardalaki, an MIT graduate student and the lead author of the new study.
Mark Harnett, an associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences, is the senior author of the paper, which appears today in Nature. Kwanghun Chung, an associate professor of chemical engineering at MIT, is also an author. (ANI)