Narrator: This is Science Today. Synapses are connections between neurons in the brain and learning takes place in the brain through changes in the strength of these connections. Contrary to previous assumptions about the how these nerve cell interactions affect learning, UCLA researchers have discovered there's an optimal brain rhythm, or frequency, for changing synaptic strength between neurons.
Mehta: So, it's like the different stations on a radio which are tuned to different frequencies. Each synapse is tuned to a different frequency.
Narrator: Study leader Mayank Mehta explains that conventional wisdom held that the harder you drive a synapse, the stronger it will become and the better it will learn.
Mehta: Then we find this huge thing — that there is an optimal frequency for which there is maximum learning. Now this theory predicts because synapses tune to a specific frequency and because of some very interesting biophysics, the synapse not only cares for how fast it is driven, but the exact timing. If the timing is extremely precise, the synapse learns the most, and if the rhythm starts to go off even a little bit the synapse starts to learn less.Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.