Axons and synaptic boutons are highly dynamic in adult visual cortex

Neuron. 2006 Mar 16;49(6):877-87. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2006.02.018.


While recent studies of synaptic stability in adult cerebral cortex have focused on dendrites, how much axons change is unknown. We have used advances in axon labeling by viruses and in vivo two-photon microscopy to investigate axon branching and bouton dynamics in primary visual cortex (V1) of adult Macaque monkeys. A nonreplicative adeno-associated virus bearing the gene for enhanced green fluorescent protein (AAV.EGFP) provided persistent labeling of axons, and a custom-designed two-photon microscope enabled repeated imaging of the intact brain over several weeks. We found that large-scale branching patterns were stable but that a subset of small branches associated with terminaux boutons, as well as a subset of en passant boutons, appeared and disappeared every week. Bouton losses and gains were both approximately 7% of the total population per week, with no net change in the overall density. These results suggest ongoing processes of synaptogenesis and elimination in adult V1.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons* / metabolism
  • Dependovirus / metabolism
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Macaca fascicularis
  • Mice
  • Neurons / classification
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Photons
  • Presynaptic Terminals / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*


  • Green Fluorescent Proteins