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Wired Up

Insight into the process of synapse formation in the brain

28 June 2021

Wired Up

There’s more to making a brain than putting a bunch of nerve cells together inside a skull, just as simply sticking a bunch of components inside a box doesn’t make a computer. Brain cells have to be connected to each other through structures known as synapses, creating complex circuits that ultimately generate thoughts and actions. But although the existence of synapses was proposed more than a century ago, and they were first visualised in the 1950s, we still know relatively little about exactly how they're put together. Using mice as a stand-in for humans, researchers have been exploring the molecules involved in forming synapses in part of the brain called the hippocampus (highlighted here in green), which is involved in learning and memory. They’ve discovered that proteins called latrophilins activate specific types of signals between cells that help to trigger synapse formation, revealing new insights into this mysterious process.

Written by Kat Arney

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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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