Environmental enrichment enhances patterning and remodeling of synaptic nanoarchitecture as revealed by STED nanoscopy

Elife. 2022 Feb 23:11:e73603. doi: 10.7554/eLife.73603.


Synaptic plasticity underlies long-lasting structural and functional changes to brain circuitry and its experience-dependent remodeling can be fundamentally enhanced by environmental enrichment. It is however unknown, whether and how the environmental enrichment alters the morphology and dynamics of individual synapses. Here, we present a virtually crosstalk-free two-color in vivo stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscope to simultaneously superresolve the dynamics of endogenous PSD95 of the post-synaptic density and spine geometry in the mouse cortex. In general, the spine head geometry and PSD95 assemblies were highly dynamic, their changes depended linearly on their original size but correlated only mildly. With environmental enrichment, the size distributions of PSD95 and spine head sizes were sharper than in controls, indicating that synaptic strength is set more uniformly. The topography of the PSD95 nanoorganization was more dynamic after environmental enrichment; changes in size were smaller but more correlated than in mice housed in standard cages. Thus, two-color in vivo time-lapse imaging of synaptic nanoorganization uncovers a unique synaptic nanoplasticity associated with the enhanced learning capabilities under environmental enrichment.

Keywords: STED microscopy; enriched environment; intravital; mouse; neuroscience; spine plasticity; superresolution; synaptic nanoorganization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendritic Spines*
  • Disks Large Homolog 4 Protein
  • Mice
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Post-Synaptic Density
  • Synapses*


  • Disks Large Homolog 4 Protein

Grants and funding

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.