Our brains have the ability to make space for new connections so that we can learn new things. The ability to learn new things is more than building neural connections. However, the ability to classify old connections is the most essential. It is known as Synaptic pruning.

The brain functions as a garden

The brain is a garden, where instead of growing fruits and vegetables, there are synaptic connections of the neurons. The neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine go through these connections.

The glial cells of the brain help to accelerate the signals between the neurons. However, there are also microglial cells that destroy pests and weeds. These cells are known as pruning gardeners because they prune the synaptic connections.

It is still unclear how they know which synaptic connections to prune. However, researchers have found out that the less used connections are marked by C1q protein. If the microglial cells discover them, they prune or destroy the synaptic connection. 

In this way, the brain makes space for learning new things and building new connections.

Why is sleep important?

Sometimes, when we are tired or do not sleep enough, we feel that our brain is full. It builds synaptic connections when we learn new things. But, in order to build an efficient connection, the brain needs to prune the inadequate ones. It prunes those connections when we sleep.

When we sleep, the brain prunes the connections and the brain cells shrink by about 60 % and make space for the glial cells to prune the synapses.

When we wake up refreshed in the morning, it means that the pruning was successful and that the brain was able to prune all of the inadequate connections.

Naps are also essential for improving our cognitive ability. When we take a nap, the microglial cells clear and prune the synaptic connections, making space for learning new things.

While sleeping, we can control what the brain decides to prune. The brain marks the synaptic connections that have not been used. The connections that are used get refreshed. If you want to take control of your synaptic connections, you should think about the things that are important to you.

The brain cells enhance the connections that we think about and prune those that we do not take care of.