A group of South Korean scientists have discovered how the human brain makes space for new memories and maintains plasticity.
It's done through cells called astrocytes, which eliminate unnecessary synapses, the structures that link neurons in the brain.
Through this function, astrocytes help prevent neurological disorders like dementia and schizophrenia caused by an excess of synapses.
Exactly why synapses disappear had previously been unclear.
Getting rid of the excess allows the brain to make new synapses, and thereby learn new things.
The collaborative research between the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and the Korea Brain Research Institute was published in the journal 'Nature' last month.