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Long-term changes in experience cause neurons to sprout new long-lasting connections

retract, with novel sensory experience some populations of these new spines make connections that constitute beneficial new wiring. So those spines gain bulk and are stabilized as persistent spines."

In addition to observing the gain and loss of persistent spines, the researchers also used electron microscopy to examine the new spines in more detail. That study showed that the new persistent spines participate in synapses, said Svoboda.

Svoboda said the discovery of experience-dependent, persistent-type dendritic spine growth has broader implications for understanding learning. "We think these findings apply to understanding a form of implicit memory of training-based skills," he said. "It's the kind of learning that you can't describe in words, like learning how to play the piano or to read Braille. It's in contrast to explicit memory, which is used to remember facts."

Svoboda said the discovery suggests new ideas for future studies aimed at understanding the neuronal wiring process in greater detail. For example, he and his colleagues will study the rewiring of the animals' brain circuitry as trimmed whiskers regrow, to determine whether the rewiring can be 'undone' when conditions return to normal. The researchers also plan more detailed study of the circuitry itself, to understand the changes in the brain's wiring diagram caused by spine growth.


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Source:Howard Hughes Medical Institute


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