Research Article

A brainwide atlas of synapses across the mouse life span

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Science  17 Jul 2020:
Vol. 369, Issue 6501, pp. 270-275
DOI: 10.1126/science.aba3163

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Brain synapses through the life span

Excitatory synapses connect neurons in the brain to build the circuits that enable behavior. Cizeron et al. surveyed synapses in the mouse brain from birth to old age and present the data as a community resource, the Mouse Lifespan Synaptome Atlas (see the Perspective by Micheva et al.). Molecular and morphological features defined 37 subtypes of synapses. Although synapse density generally increased in early development and declined in old age, the details differed in different brain areas.

Science this issue p. 270; see also p. 253


Synapses connect neurons together to form the circuits of the brain, and their molecular composition controls innate and learned behavior. We analyzed the molecular and morphological diversity of 5 billion excitatory synapses at single-synapse resolution across the mouse brain from birth to old age. A continuum of changes alters synapse composition in all brain regions across the life span. Expansion in synapse diversity produces differentiation of brain regions until early adulthood, and compositional changes cause dedifferentiation in old age. The spatiotemporal synaptome architecture of the brain potentially accounts for life-span transitions in intellectual ability, memory, and susceptibility to behavioral disorders.

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