Structural plasticity upon learning: regulation and functions

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2012 Jun 20;13(7):478-90. doi: 10.1038/nrn3258.


Recent studies have provided long-sought evidence that behavioural learning involves specific synapse gain and elimination processes, which lead to memory traces that influence behaviour. The connectivity rearrangements are preceded by enhanced synapse turnover, which can be modulated through changes in inhibitory connectivity. Behaviourally related synapse rearrangement events tend to co-occur spatially within short stretches of dendrites, and involve signalling pathways partially overlapping with those controlling the functional plasticity of synapses. The new findings suggest that a mechanistic understanding of learning and memory processes will require monitoring ensembles of synapses in situ and the development of synaptic network models that combine changes in synaptic function and connectivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology*
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*