ABOVE: Microglia (red) in the adult mouse hippocampus erode memory-encoding engram cells (blue).

Microglia, the brain’s primary immune cells that prune extra synapses during brain development, also regulate forgetting in the adult mouse brain, according to a study published on February 7 in Science. The researchers found that “microglia eliminated synaptic components in the adult hippocampus and that depleting microglia or inhibiting phagocytosis of microglia prevented forgetting,” they write in the paper. 

Paul Frankland, a neuroscientist at the Hospital for Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto who wasn’t involved in the research, tells Science News that mechanisms for deleting unimportant memories may allow the brain to encode new information.  

C. Wang et al., “Microglia mediate forgetting via complement-dependent synaptic elimination,” Sciencedoi:10.1126/science.aaz2288, 2020. 

Amy Schleunes is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at aschleunes@the-scientist.com.

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