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Twigs and Networks: learning and memory uncovered

By Dawn19 January 2015
You are born with at least 100 billion neurons. Dendrites (fibres) grow from neurons when you listen to, write about, talk about or practice something. Dendrites only grow from a dendrite (fibre) that is already there, from something you already know. Like twigs on a tree, dendrites grow from a twig or branch that you have. Then like twigs growing on a tree, learning is constructed, higher and higher. As your twigs (dendrites) get higher and higher, what do you think happens? You learn naturally!

brain neuron dendrites

Learning grows dendrites

Neurons (brain cells) know how to grow dendrites, just like your stomach knows how to digest food. Learning grows dendrites. These new dendrites take time to grow; it takes a lot of practice for them to grow. Connections then form between neurons. When two dendrites grow close together, a contact point is formed. A small gap at this point is called the synapse. Messages are sent from one neuron to another as electrical signals travel across the synapse.  

dendrites development learning

Learning strengthens weaker synapses

When you learn, specific dendrites grow so that specific neurons connect at specific synapses. As you learn synapses change minute by minute. Some are strong, some of these are weak, so weak they don’t send a signal. Learning helps your weak synapses become strong. Practice builds thick double connections, these connections allow signals to travel faster. Faster, stronger connections last a long time, meaning you remember what you learn.  

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