Dendritic spines were imaged over days to months in the apical tufts of neocortical pyramidal neurons (layers 5 and 2/3) in vivo. A fraction of thin spines appeared and disappeared over a few days, while most thick spines persisted for months. In the somatosensory cortex, from postnatal day (PND) 16 to PND 25 spine retractions exceeded additions, resulting in a net loss of spines. The fraction of persistent spines (lifetime > or = 8 days) grew gradually during development and into adulthood (PND 16-25, 35%; PND 35-80, 54%; PND 80-120, 66%; PND 175-225, 73%), providing evidence that synaptic circuits continue to stabilize even in the adult brain, long after the closure of known critical periods. In 6-month-old mice, spines turn over more slowly in visual compared to somatosensory cortex, possibly reflecting differences in the capacity for experience-dependent plasticity in these brain regions.