Can we adjust or remove a neural connection?

Creating a neural connection is well understood. It is the pillar of learning, you just need to learn something correctly the first time. Brilliant. Problem solved. Of course that often is not the case. You don’t always learn things correctly the first time. Instead you create neural connections to things that are not the best answer. When you find the best answer your brain then gets mixed signals, literally, and has to make a choice about what answer to believe.

Current research implies it is based on a voting system with the neural signals with the greatest number of connections winning. So of course you now need to get the correct answer to be the one with the greatest number of connections. The problem is that you will always have that niggling feeling that another answer exists and may be right. This is not helpful and gets in your way when you really need the answer.

The dream would be to remove the connections to the incorrect answer. Then you just spring clean your connections every so often and have this perfect working mind. Of course that is cloud cuckoo land at the moment because no one knows how to do that. Every aspect of a human I have learnt about teaches me that once the body has learnt something it never forgets it or the ability to use it. Amazing but true.

That did not stop me having a quick check and I thought I’d share the results with you. It is just a cursory google not an in depth exploration. I am just trying to stir debate and see if anyone out there knows a little about this.

The good news I found is that Axon pruning also known as synaptic pruning does exist and is exactly what I am looking for. The bad news is that this is only relevant for humans growing up. It doesn’t happen in grown ups. So I looked a little further into the lifecycle of neurons and found diffferentiation. Excellent but still not the answer.

My thoughts are that this would be a component of sleep, probably REM sleep. The reorganising part of the process where the brain gets finely tuned. The challenge I want to solve is how to fix bad habits, removing or “forgetting” previous neural connections seems crucial in really dealing with them. Otherwise you spend the rest of your life focusing very hard on making your brain choose the good habit over the bad. If the bad were effectively forgotten then you would not have to work so hard.

Since the brain never actually seems to forget I am not expecting to delete a connection entirely. Instead reduce its importance progressively until its pretty much forgotten. One angle I think might be useful is degradation of the myelin sheath. The thicker the myelin sheath the better the signal between the neurons. It makes sense that the brain would be able to reduce the thickness of the myelin sheath but I haven’t heard any evidence for that.

The same goes for the number of connections to any particular neuron or axon (I forget if it is axons or neurons that are the centre I think it is actually axons that get all the connections). This is what gets each neural connection its vote, the connection to an axon. It makes sense that any axon can only support a certain number of connections or at least can only really listen to a certain number. So finding a way to either remove the connection or reduce its strength and importance would be key.

Those are my thoughts so far. These are the areas I would look for first and why I think it could be possible. If any one out there has any insights that would be fantastic. Please get in contact.

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