Adult Brains Contain Millions of ‘Silent Synapses’

There are millions of immature connections between the neurons in brains of adults that remain inactive until they’re recruited to help form new memories, according to neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

What to Know

  • An estimated 30% of all synapses in the brain’s cortex are silent and become active to allow the adult brain to continually form new memories and leave existing conventional synapses unmodified.

  • Silent synapses are looking for new connections, and when important new information is presented, connections between the relevant neurons are strengthened to allow the brain to remember new things.

  • Using the silent synapses for the new memories does not overwrite the important memories stored in more mature synapses, which are harder to change.

  • The brain’s neurons display a wide range of plasticity mechanisms that account for how brains can efficiently learn new things and retain them in long-term memory.

  • Flexibility of synapses is critical for acquiring new information, and stability is required to retain important information, enabling one to more easily adjust and change behaviors and habits or incorporate new information.

This is a summary of the article, “Filopodia Are a Structural Substrate for Silent Synapses in Adult Neocortex,” published in Nature on November 30, 2022. The full article can be found on .

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