Synaptic Tenacity or Lack Thereof: Spontaneous Remodeling of Synapses

Trends Neurosci. 2018 Feb;41(2):89-99. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2017.12.003. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Synaptic plasticity - the directed modulation of synaptic connections by specific activity histories or physiological signals - is believed to be a major mechanism for the modification of neuronal network function. This belief, however, has a 'flip side': the supposition that synapses do not change spontaneously in manners unrelated to such signals. Contrary to this supposition, recent studies reveal that synapses do change spontaneously, and to a fairly large extent. Here we review experimental results on spontaneous synaptic remodeling, its relative contributions to total synaptic remodeling, its statistical characteristics, and its physiological importance. We also address challenges it poses and avenues it opens for future experimental and theoretical research.

Keywords: stochastic processes; synaptic plasticity; synaptic remodeling; synaptic tenacity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology*