In a paper published in January of 2016, researchers discovered there are more sizes of brain synapses than previously thought. Previously it was thought we had only 2 types, small and large, which relate to short term and long term memory.
Our understanding of the brain and how memories are retrieved has changed over the years, currently it is observed that a pattern of neural firing activates different memories, emotions and movements.
The memory capacity of neurons is based on synapse size, so the old understanding of basically 2 sized led to a theory of 2 types of memory. What the researchers discovered is there are many different sizes, with about 8 percent with each successive size, making it possible for 26 distinct sizes of synapses. It also appears “your synapses are going up or down to the next size. The synapses are adjusting themselves according to the signals they receive”, says Tom Bartol, researcher at the Salk Institute. We have variable sized synapses based upon the signals they are receiving.
The wording of the researchers demonstrate an understanding of the brain and nervous system as changeable and adaptable. It is in constant flux, based upon the input it is receiving.
Why is this research exciting, and how can the average person use it?
We know the brain and nervous system generates and sustains patterns for overall efficiency, even if those patterns are non-productive or unhealthy. Our brains are changeable. Healthier, more sustainable patterns can be instilled with new input. How? Change the pattern! Our patterns are linked through movements, emotion, mental thoughts and more. We often think we need to change everything at once, but sometimes we just need to change one thing for a new pattern to emerge.