Synaptic plasticity is fundamental to many neurobiological functions, including memory and pain. Central sensitization refers to the increased synaptic efficacy established in somatosensory neurons in the dorsal horn of the spinal cord following intense peripheral noxious stimuli, tissue injury or nerve damage. This heightened synaptic transmission leads to a reduction in pain threshold, an amplification of pain responses and a spread of pain sensitivity to non-injured areas. In the cortex, LTP - a long-lasting highly localized increase in synaptic strength - is a synaptic substrate for memory and learning. Analysis of the molecular mechanisms underlying the generation and maintenance of central sensitization and LTP indicates that, although there are differences between the synaptic plasticity contributing to memory and pain, there are also striking similarities.