More than synaptic plasticity: role of nonsynaptic plasticity in learning and memory

Trends Neurosci. 2010 Jan;33(1):17-26. doi: 10.1016/j.tins.2009.10.001. Epub 2009 Nov 2.


Decades of research on the cellular mechanisms of memory have led to the widely held view that memories are stored as modifications of synaptic strength. These changes involve presynaptic processes, such as direct modulation of the release machinery, or postsynaptic processes, such as modulation of receptor properties. Parallel studies have revealed that memories might also be stored by nonsynaptic processes, such as modulation of voltage-dependent membrane conductances, which are expressed as changes in neuronal excitability. Although in some cases nonsynaptic changes can function as part of the engram itself, they might also serve as mechanisms through which a neural circuit is set to a permissive state to facilitate synaptic modifications that are necessary for memory storage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology