CREB and neuronal selection for memory trace

Front Neural Circuits. 2013 Mar 21:7:44. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2013.00044. eCollection 2013.


Despite considerable progress over the past several decades, our understanding of the mechanisms underlying memory encoding, storage, and expression in a complex neural network are far from complete. In particular, how some neurons rather than others are selectively engaged to encode memory remains largely unknown. Using virus-mediated gene delivery into a small subset of neurons in a given network, molecular imaging of neuronal activity, pharmacological perturbation of specific neurons' activity and animal behavior assays, recent studies have begun to provide insight into molecular and cellular mechanisms responsible for the selection of neurons for inclusion into a memory trace. Here, we focus on a review of recent findings supporting the hypothesis that the level of the transcription factor CREB (cAMP/Ca(2+)-response element binding protein) is a key factor governing which neurons are recruited to a given memory trace. These recent findings open a new perspective on memory trace at the neural circuit level and also raise many important questions. Future studies employing more advanced neurobiological techniques for targeting defined populations of neurons and manipulating their activity in time and space in a complex neural network will give answers to these newly emerging questions and extend our understanding of the neurobiological basis of the memory trace.

Keywords: CREB; dendritic spine; excitability; memory trace; neural network; neuronal selection.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein / metabolism*
  • Fear / physiology*
  • Fear / psychology
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism*


  • Cyclic AMP Response Element-Binding Protein