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Asynchronous Segregation of Cortical Circuits and Their Function: A Life-long Role for Synaptic Death

Computer Science Department, Technion- Israel Institute of Technology Haifa 32000, Israel

Special Issue: What is the functional role of synapse elimination and does it occur beyond the developmental period?

The functional role of synapse elimination has been debated since its discovery nearly three decades ago. Its widely perceived function in the removal of unnecessary and malfunctioning synapses in early life for the improvement of neural circuit performance has justified the term “synaptic pruning”. Yet, while recent experimental findings suggest the persistence of synaptic elimination into maturity and beyond, its cause and functionality have remained a mystery. Here we show that synapse elimination, caused by asynchronous neural firing, segregates individual neurons and neural circuits into interference-free synchronous isolation. Such segregation is shown to determine not only the circuit sizes, but also the circuit firing rate modes, fundamental to a large variety of cortical functions throughout life.
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