This review highlights five areas of recent discovery concerning the role of extracellular-signal regulated kinases (ERKs) in the hippocampus. First, ERKs have recently been directly implicated in human learning through studies of a human mental retardation syndrome. Second, new models are being formulated for how ERKs contribute to molecular information processing in dendrites. Third, a role of ERKs in stabilizing structural changes in dendritic spines has been defined. Fourth, a crucial role for ERKs in regulating local dendritic protein synthesis is emerging. Fifth, the importance of ERK interactions with scaffolding and structural proteins at the synapse is increasingly apparent. These topics are discussed within the context of an emerging role for ERKs in a wide variety of forms of synaptic plasticity and memory formation in the behaving animal.