Dendritic spines are the postsynaptic sites of the majority of excitatory synapses in the mammalian central nervous system. The morphology and dynamics of dendritic spines change throughout the lifespan of animals, in response to novel experiences and neuropathologies. New spines form rapidly as animals learn new tasks or experience novel sensory stimulations. This is followed by a selective elimination of previously existing spines, leading to significant synaptic remodeling. In the brain damaged by injuries or neurological diseases, spines in surviving cortical regions turn over substantially, potentially forming new synaptic connections to adopt the function lost in the damaged region. These findings suggest that spine plasticity plays important roles in the formation and maintenance of a functional neural circuitry.
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