LTP, memory and structural plasticity

Curr Mol Med. 2002 Nov;2(7):605-11. doi: 10.2174/1566524023362041.


Our current understanding of the mechanisms of information processing and storage in the brain, based on the concept proposed more than fifty years ago by D. Hebb, is that a key role is played by changes in synaptic efficacy induced by coincident pre- and postsynaptic activity. Decades of studies of the properties of long-term potentiation (LTP) have shown that this form of plasticity adequately fulfills these requirements and is likely to contribute to several models of learning and memory. Recent analyses of the molecular events implicated in LTP are consistent with the view that modifications of receptor properties or insertion of new receptors account for the potentiation of synaptic transmission. These experiments, however, have also uncovered an unexpected structural plasticity of synapses. Dendritic spines appear to be dynamic structures that can be formed, modified in their shape or eliminated under the influence of activity. Furthermore, recent studies suggest that LTP, in addition to changes in synaptic function, is also associated with mechanisms of synaptogenesis. We review here the evidence pointing to this activity-dependent remodeling and discuss the possible role of this structural plasticity for synaptic potentiation, learning and memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Humans
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Memory*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Synapses / physiology*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*