The developmental stages of synaptic plasticity

J Physiol. 2014 Jan 1;592(1):13-31. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2012.235119. Epub 2013 Oct 21.


The brain is programmed to drive behaviour by precisely wiring the appropriate neuronal circuits. Wiring and rewiring of neuronal circuits largely depends on the orchestrated changes in the strengths of synaptic contacts. Here, we review how the rules of synaptic plasticity change during development of the brain, from birth to independence. We focus on the changes that occur at the postsynaptic side of excitatory glutamatergic synapses in the rodent hippocampus and neocortex. First we summarize the current data on the structure of synapses and the developmental expression patterns of the key molecular players of synaptic plasticity, N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) and α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptors, as well as pivotal kinases (Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II, protein kinase A, protein kinase C) and phosphatases (PP1, PP2A, PP2B). In the second part we relate these findings to important characteristics of the emerging network. We argue that the concerted and gradual shifts in the usage of plasticity molecules comply with the changing need for (re)wiring neuronal circuits.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Humans
  • N-Methylaspartate / metabolism
  • Nerve Net / growth & development*
  • Nerve Net / metabolism
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases / metabolism
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid / metabolism


  • N-Methylaspartate
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phosphoric Monoester Hydrolases