Activity-dependent changes of the hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapse during the acquisition of associative learning in conscious mice

Genes Brain Behav. 2007 Jun;6 Suppl 1:24-31. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2007.00319.x.


Contemporary neuroscientists are paying increasing attention to subcellular, molecular and electrophysiological mechanisms underlying learning and memory processes. Recent efforts have addressed the development of transgenic mice affected at different stages of the learning process, or emulating pathological conditions involving cognition and motor-learning capabilities. However, a parallel effort is needed to develop stimulating and recording techniques suitable for use in behaving mice, in order to grasp activity-dependent neural changes taking place during the very moment of the process. These in vivo models should integrate the fragmentary information collected by different molecular and in vitro approaches. In this regard, long-term potentiation (LTP) has been proposed as the neural mechanism underlying synaptic plasticity. Moreover, N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors are accepted as the molecular substrate of LTP. It now seems necessary to study the relationship of both LTP and NMDA receptors with the plastic changes taking place, in selected neural structures, during actual learning. Here, we review data on the involvement of the hippocampal CA3-CA1 synapse in the acquisition of classically conditioned eyelid conditioned responses (CRs) in behaving mice. Available data show that LTP, evoked by high-frequency stimulation of Schaffer collaterals, disturbs both the acquisition of CRs and the physiological changes that occur at the CA3-CA1 synapse during learning. Moreover, the administration of NMDA-receptor antagonists is able not only to prevent LTP induction in vivo, but also to hinder the formation of both CRs and functional changes in strength of the CA3-CA1 synapse. Thus, there is experimental evidence relating activity-dependent synaptic changes taking place during actual learning with LTP mechanisms and with the role of NMDA receptors in both processes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Association Learning / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Eyelid / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / cytology
  • Hippocampus / metabolism*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Mice
  • Models, Animal
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate