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Advances in 3D Imaging - III Learning to Connect

Modelling how learning changes the brain's neuron connections

14 December 2022

Learning to Connect

We all learn from our experiences (hopefully) but how does this affect your brain? Learning causes changes in neuron activity, which trigger changes in the connections between your neurons (synapses). To probe this more deeply, researchers created the largest map of connections, to date, between cortical neurons in a mouse brain. First, sections through a mouse brain were imaged using electron microscopy. Next, an algorithm automatically detected synapses and created a 3D reconstruction (pictured). This was used to model spine dynamics – changes in the size of protrusions from neurons (spines) onto which synapses are made by other neurons. Spine size and synapse strength both increase with greater neuron activity. Researchers focused on pairs of synapses between the same two neurons to provide insights into how neuron activity causes jumps in synapse strength. The data collected and algorithm used are now freely available to help other researchers investigate neuron connections too.

Written by Lux Fatimathas

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