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What Is Synaptic Pruning?

Synaptic pruning is the brain’s process of removing synapses, or connections, between brain cells. This process helps remove rarely used connections to ensure that there is enough brain capacity for more frequently used connections. The number of synapses in babies and children is about double the amount in adults, making it easier for babies and children to rapidly learn new tasks as they develop. The pruning process of these synapses typically begins during adolescence and continues through adulthood, until about the late 20s or so. This makes the adult brain more able to focus in-depth on complex tasks because there are fewer connections and changes taking place.

More about brain function:

  • Schizophrenia is thought possibly to be linked to malfunctions that occur during synaptic pruning in teenagers and young adults.

  • The younger the brain, the more able it is to repair damage. For example, a 10-year-old who has a brain injury is likely to recover more fully than a 20-year-old with the same injury.

  • The part of the brain that is associated with guilt and empathy, known as the medial prefrontal cortex, is less developed in teenage brains than in adult brains.

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