The Mechanisms and Functions of Synaptic Facilitation

Neuron. 2017 May 3;94(3):447-464. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.02.047.


The ability of the brain to store and process information relies on changing the strength of connections between neurons. Synaptic facilitation is a form of short-term plasticity that enhances synaptic transmission for less than a second. Facilitation is a ubiquitous phenomenon thought to play critical roles in information transfer and neural processing. Yet our understanding of the function of facilitation remains largely theoretical. Here we review proposed roles for facilitation and discuss how recent progress in uncovering the underlying molecular mechanisms could enable experiments that elucidate how facilitation, and short-term plasticity in general, contributes to circuit function and animal behavior.

Keywords: active zone; calcium channel; exocytosis; facilitation; neurotransmitter release; release probability; synapse; synaptic plasticity; synaptic vesicle; synaptotagmin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Exocytosis*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / metabolism*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Purkinje Cells / metabolism*
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission*
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*


  • Calcium