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Axonal Bouton Dynamics Are Increased in Aging Mouse

In collaboration with Vincenzo De Paola’s lab at MRC in London,  Sen Song’s lab recently discovered that axonal bouton dynamics are increased in aging mouse cortex rather than decreased. Synaptic plasticity is considered an essential process for the formation and maintenance of memory. It had been assumed for decades that cognitive deficits within the aging brain result from reduced synaptic density and plasticity. By imaging axonal arbors and boutons in the aged brain, they surprisingly find the opposite, i.e., dramatically increased rates of synapse formation, elimination, and destabilization in specific cortical circuits. This observation suggests that learning and memory deficits in the aged brain may arise not through an inability to form new synapses but rather through decreased synaptic tenacity. Sen Song’s lab developed novel software for this work and participated in the data analysis. This work was published in PNAS: http://www.pnas.org/content/110/16/E1514.short and highlighted in Naturehttp://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v496/n7443/full/496009c.html?WT.ec_id=NATURE-20130404.