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Medicine: Professor Anna Huttenlocher publishes book on synaptic pruning

11 July 2023 Life Members

Professor Anna Huttenlocher, Life Member of Clare Hall, has published a book titled From Loss to Memory: Behind the Discovery of Synaptic Pruning (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

Physician scientist Anna Huttenlocher is a Professor at University of Wisconsin, Madison and a member of the National Academy of Medicine. Her laboratory studies cell migration in inflammation and cancer. She directed the MD-Ph.D. program at UW-Madison and is a committed mentor to the next generation of physicians and biomedical scientists.

Professor Huttenlocher was a visiting fellow in 2021 at Clare Hall, where she wrote From Loss to Memory. The book asks the following question: how do the billions of connections between neurons in our brain change as we learn and remember? This is the story of the discovery and the discoverer of synaptic pruning, the process of synapse elimination central to making us who we are. Taking the reader from Professor Peter Huttenlocher’s childhood in wartime and post-war Germany to his emigration to the US to reunite with his mother and the launch and progress of a career in medicine and research, we uncover the motivations and process of scientific discovery that led to an unexpected leap in our understanding of the human brain. Decades after the discovery, the importance of synaptic pruning to early learning, autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions are now in the process of being uncovered.

This is the first book that describes the discovery of synaptic pruning, allowing readers to understand the subject in a new light. It is an engrossing biography of the scientist behind the discovery, from childhood in war-torn Germany to immigration and discoveries in medical science. Written in a topical and accessible way, this book discusses the potential for knowledge of synaptic pruning to further discoveries in brain function in areas such as learning, memory, autism, schizophrenia and neurodegeneration.