Brain’s synaptic pruning continues into your 20s

Wendy Zukerman and Andrew Purcell

The synaptic pruning that helps sculpt the adolescent brain into its adult form continues to weed out weak neural connections throughout our 20s. The surprise finding could have implications for our understanding of schizophrenia, a psychological disorder which often appears in early adulthood.

As children, we overproduce the connections – synapses – between brain cells. During puberty the body carries out a kind of topiary, snipping away some synapses while allowing others to strengthen. Over a few years, the number of synapses roughly halves, and the adult brain emerges.

Or so we thought. Pasko Rakic at Yale University and colleagues at the University of Zagreb, Croatia, and the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, have now found that the brains of adults in their 20s are still subject to synaptic pruning.

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