What is synaptic plasticity?

Professor Jeff Lichtman examines the concept of synaptic plasticity, a term that refers to the way the brain changes.

Synaptic plasticity is a term used by neuroscientists who are interested in focusing on the way the brain changes. The word plasticity has a lot to do with the word plastic, and anyone who has used plastic or felt a piece of plastic knows that plastic is different from objects like hard metals or rock in that it's pliable. Plastics bend and change and you can melt them a little bit, and change their shapes, you can mold them into what you would like them to look like. The idea is that synapses which are the sites of connections between nerve cells and other nerve cells have a plastic property. That is they're changeable, they mutate, not in a genetic sense, but they just change either their shape or their function over periods of time that could last for a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, or perhaps even for a lifetime. There are many people who believe that when you learn something, when you experience something and you never forget that, that thing you never forget, the way it is built into your brain, is by changes in the structure and function of the synaptic connections. That is what Synaptic Plasticity is all about; figuring out what these changes are.

synaptic, plasticity, connections, synapses, plastic, jeff lichtman

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