When you learn something new, two things happen: First, neurons immediately send electrical signals along new routes in the brain. This then leads to changes in the physical structure of cells in the brain and their connections over time. But scientists have long wondered what happened between these two steps. How does this electrical activity in neurons ultimately guide the brain to change in a more permanent way? Even further, how and why does this plasticity diminish with age and certain diseases?According to a study published in the Journal of Neurosciencea study,ResearchersdesignedA system that can introduce a specially labeled amino acid (one of the building blocks of proteins) into one type of neuron at a time. When cells make new proteins, they incorporate this amino acid, azidoleucine, into their structures. Researchers can monitor newly synthesized proteins and distinguish them from existing ones. They found that following the increase in neural activity, the researchers found changes in the levels of 300 different proteins in neurons. Two-thirds increased during peak brain activity, and the remaining third decreased in synthesis.
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