Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

pp 1464-1465

Synaptic Pruning

  • Edalmarys SantosAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Middle Tennessee State University
  • , Chad A. NoggleAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, SIU School of Medicine

Definition

Synaptic pruning refers to the process by which extra neurons and synaptic connections are eliminated in order to increase the efficiency of neuronal transmissions.

Description

Beginning in the earliest embryonic stage and lasting until approximately 2 years of age, new neurons and synapses are formed at an amazing rate, at times reaching 40,000 new synapses formed per second [2]. By the end of this process individuals are left with far more neurons and synapses than are functionally needed and/or preferred. Synaptic pruning is the process by which these extra synapses are eliminated thereby increasing the efficiency of the neural network. The entire process continues up until approximately 10 years of age by which time nearly 50% of the synapses present at 2 years of age have been eliminated [2]. The pattern and timeline pruning follows varies based on brain region. Again the process is intended to increase the efficiency of the neurological system. In thi ...

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