Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University have discovered how the brain essentially re-wires itself to quickly process new stimuli.

Connections between neurons change rapidly, based on the input to the brain. So, when your nose picks up an odor, a whole bunch of neurons start to fire, but then a process called lateral inhibition kicks in. With lateral inhibition, certain neurons tell their neighbors to shut up and thereby reduce the noise, allowing the brain to focus on identifying the smell.

In this work, the group identified a process that enhances lateral inhibition, so the brain can quickly and clearly identify a stimulus. Read the full paper in Nature Neuroscience.—Gregory Mone