Memory Formation

Signaling Neurons Make Neighbor Cells "Want In"
Synapses are primed to strengthen (and thus enable learning) if a neighbor has just been stimulated.
 
A new discovery about the function of neurons could help scientists understand how the brain assembles information during learning and memory formation. 

Scientists have found that when electrical impulses are passed from one neuron to another, they not only strengthen the synapse (connection) between them, but they also give a boost to neighboring synapses, priming them to learn more quickly and easily.
 
Researchers report in Nature that the extra kick, which lasts from five to 10 minutes, may be key to memory formation.
 
The residual effect "had been predicted based on so-called classic models of plasticity"—the ability of the brain to adapt by strengthening or weakening connections between neurons—but had not previously been proved, says study co-author Karel Svoboda, a biophysics group leader at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Va. "You'd like to have clustered plasticity of this sort" to keep memories grouped together.
 
Neurons, or nerve cells, each have a pair of projections—the axon and the dendrite, which transmit and receive impulses, respectively. The dendrite, a treelike structure, has several branches dotted with hundreds synaptic receiving terminals called "spines," each connected to the axons of scores of other neurons.
 
When one of these spines receives stimulation (through the synapse it creates with another cell's axonal projection), the spine expands into the synapse, strengthening the link between its neuron and the other cell.
 
This process of enhanced communication through a synapse is called long-term potentiation (LTP) and is thought to be the basis of learning.

Kemo D. (a.k.a. no.7)
 
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