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Mathematical model offers new insight into brain synapses


Narrator:       This is Science Today. It's been long known that learning in the brain occurs by changes in the strength of synapses, which are the connections between neurons. But only recently have scientists started to build a picture of what causes synapse strength to change. Mayank Mehta is part of a team of researchers at UCLA that has developed a mathematical model to simulate all the different parameters that play a role in synaptic plasticity.

Mehta:           We got a rough estimate and then we solved it analytically and we found that actually there is this optimal frequency and we figured out the exact mathematical dependence of the amount of plasticity at the synapse on the exact frequency.

Narrator:       Once their calculations were confirmed, the researchers added layers of biological detail to the model until they were able to run simulations with hundreds of parameters, a kind of experiment that was not previously possible.

Mehta:           A lot of things start to make sense and a lot of things we haven't even thought of we have begun to start thinking about. We can start looking at what will be the optimal frequencies for learning in these different synapses and different brain regions.

Narrator:       For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.