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I've been reading about brain plasticity and how the brain can "rewire" itself.

One of the things that is not clear to me - how neurons can establish new connections. Does this rewiring mean that neurons can "disconnect" from other neurons to reuse existing dendrites? Or do neurons grow new dendrites to make these new connections, adding to existing ones?

Thank you for your input!

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Related (almost a duplicate): biology.stackexchange.com/questions/8/… –  jonsca Nov 22 '12 at 21:34
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up vote 5 down vote accepted

I haven't read anything particularly about dendrites being reshaped, though I would expect them to be as flexible as other parts of the cells.

The more commonly discussed topic (in my literary experience) is reshaping of the axon's branches before forming synaptic terminals. These branches are not fixed even in adults - neurons can grow new and retract old branches, attaching (synapsing) to other cells in new places and removing old connections (see Wikipedia: Synaptogenesis).

Additionally to this actual change in the number of synapses, individual synapses can be regulated in their signal strength by adjusting the number of neurotransmitter receptors in the postsynaptic membrane (Gerrow&Triller, 2010, also see Wikipedia: Synaptic plasticity)

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There is actually quite a lot of literature on changes dendritic branching. –  nico Nov 23 '12 at 15:20
    
Must be because my "reading" is mostly that suggested by lecturers and syntactic elasticity was a topic in lessons but dendritic wasn't :) –  Armatus Nov 24 '12 at 11:06
    
Take for instance this (but there are many other examples) Chronic Psychosocial Stress Causes Apical Dendritic Atrophy of Hippocampal CA3 Pyramidal Neurons in Subordinate Tree Shrews –  nico Nov 24 '12 at 13:17
    
Like @nico says, there is a lot of literature on dendritic "reshaping" (see, for instance, biology.stackexchange.com/q/8/72). I'd say that dendritic reshaping is discussed with about as much frequency as axonal reshaping. –  yamad Nov 28 '12 at 18:08
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