Inhibitory synapses grow as ‘traffic controller’ at busy neural intersections

At the spot where an axon (green) crosses a dendrite (red), the researchers activated four synapses (blue dots, left). The yellow spot in the right-hand picture shows that a new synapse has formed at that intersection.

Neurons pass on information to one another via synapses. The vast majority of these synapses are excitatory, which increase the activity of the receiving neuron. Around 10 to 20 percent of synapses have the opposite effect, and are called inhibitory. Researchers at Utrecht University have discovered that the growth of inhibitory synapses is specifically stimulated in the vicinity of excitatory synapses. The researchers published the results of their research in Cell Reports on 16 April.

Good coordination between excitatory and inhibitory signals is essential for information processing. “Excitatory and inhibitory synapses create a balance in which the inhibitory synapses play a vital role as ‘directors’ in the brain,” explains Corette…

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