Hua gave those losing neurons a fighting chance through another molecular twist. She managed to silence some neurons near the green, quietly-firing cells. When she did that, the green cells were able to compete successfully and formed longer, more complex arbors.
Although this work specifically examined the brains of fish, Smith said the same rules likely apply to all neurons, including those in the human brain. “Probably these same things are happening all the time,?he said.
Neurons that fire regularly while learning to recognize a new person’s face, for example, will form larger arbors with more connections that help retain that memory for the future. Likewise, neurons stimulated by engaging toys or experiences will probably create larger arbors than similar neurons in less exciting conditions.
“We are looking at a dynamic part of development,?Smith said. “These are the connections that let us think and fight and love.?/p>