Synapsis (also called syndesis) is the pairing of two homologous chromosomes that occurs during meiosis. It is a form of chromosomal crossover. Synapsis takes place during prophase I. When homologous chromosomes synapse, they come closer together until they are connected by a protein complex called the synaptonemal complex, which contains central and lateral elements. While autosomes undergo synapsis during meiosis sex chromosomes usually remain unpaired.
When the non-sister chromatids intertwine, segments of chromatids with the same sequence break apart at and are exchanged in a process known as genetic recombination or "crossing-over". Recombination exchanges genetic material between homologous chromosomes and increases the genetic variability of the offspring. This exchange produces a chiasma, a region that is shaped like an X, where the two chromosomes are physically joined. At many points, this can lead to a number of different results confounding with the idea of synapsis.
The purpose of synapsis is to increase genetic variability.