Beth Stevens researches the mechanisms that sculpt synapses – the points of communication between neurons – during healthy nervous system development and disease. Using a combination of live imaging and molecular, biochemical, and neuroanatomical approaches, Stevens and her team uncovered a key role in this process for microglia, the brain’s resident immune cells. Now they are diving deep into the mechanisms behind synaptic pruning. Their goal is to create the first anatomical and functional maps of synapse refinement in a region of the brain associated with executive function and working memory. They will then investigate how manipulation of microglia and immune-related molecules alters that map to identify potential connections to Alzheimer’s and other diseases.