The Brain’s Clustered Plasticity

Tough title.  All it means is that neurons assist one another in processing information.  Traditional research has heretofor concluded that neurons communicate with one another simply by sending chemical bursts from one axonal ending to the next.  New research at Maryland’s Howard Hughes Medical Institute indicates that neighboring synapses also become more sensitized to assist.

“The traditional view was that each synapse functioned independently, and the strength of individual connections modulated memory storage,” said Mr. Harvey, a graduate student at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island. “What we’ve shown is that neighboring synapses may function together, which leads to the idea that information is stored in a clustered manner, with related things concentrated in the same neighborhood.”

This period of sensitivity appears to be on the order of ten minutes or so, which squares with the pragmatic need for keeping information just long enough to accomplish a task without overwhelming the system with too much information.

 Link:  New York Times

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