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Cutting Connections
29 March 2016

Cutting Connections

The vast number and complexity of connections between human brain cells is staggering, and yet the brain’s ability to process information is surprisingly efficient. That’s in part because as a child grows and learns new things, certain connections are made stronger while others are eliminated – a process called pruning. Around adolescence a good deal of pruning occurs, which is thought to optimise processing power, but new research suggests, that over-zealous pruning may increase a person’s risk for schizophrenia – a condition that incidentally manifests at adolescence or early adulthood. The brains of patients with schizophrenia were found to have higher levels of a protein called C4 (green) – pictured here at connections between human neurons. While C4 is better known for its role outside the brain as an immune factor targeting pathogens for elimination, inside the brain it seems undesirable neural connections are C4’s targets.

Written by Ruth Williams

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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