UCLA Logo Why doesn’t everyone learn like Einstein or Mozart? Well, the strength of the connections between neurons of the brain, called synapses could be the reason. As per UCLA neuro-physicists, there is a rhythmic process in the brain where just like stations on a radio dial, each synapse is tuned to varied optimal frequency for learning.

In a process called synaptic plasticity where the strength of the synapse changes is apparently instigated by a cascade of neural signals that occur with variable frequency and timing. Also, the analysts believe that just stimulating the neurons at high frequencies may not be the way to elevate the synaptic strength.

Mayank R. Mehta, the paper’s senior author and an associate professor in UCLA’s departments of neurology, neurobiology, physics and astronomy commented, “Many people have learning and memory disorders, and beyond that group, most of us are not Einstein or Mozart. Our work suggests that some problems with learning and memory are caused by synapses not being tuned to the right frequency.”

It was initially believed that when the synapses were driven at higher frequency, the influence on synaptic strength along with learning may turn out to be equally good though not enhanced in any way. But the scientists were taken aback when they found that synaptic strengthening apparently lessened as frequencies rose.

Therefore, the team analyzed optimal frequencies depending on the location of the synapse on a neuron. They found that the optimal frequency required to activate synaptic learning supposedly changed based on the location of the synapse. More the distance between the synapse and the neuron’s cell body, the greater was its optimal frequency.

Also, the investigators say the effect is the best when the frequency is perfectly rhythmic. They also believe that the process of learning itself seemingly alters the optimal frequency of a synapse.

This kind of learning induced detuning may contribute to the treatment of disorders such as forgetfulness, post traumatic stress disorder and so on. Mehta concludes that there are certain drugs and electrical stimuli which modify brain rhythms. This analysis suggests that these avenues could be used to provide suitable brain rhythm to connections for better learning.

The research is published in the journal Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience.