Toward a Neurocentric View of Learning

Neuron. 2017 Jul 5;95(1):19-32. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2017.05.021.


Synaptic plasticity (e.g., long-term potentiation [LTP]) is considered the cellular correlate of learning. Recent optogenetic studies on memory engram formation assign a critical role in learning to suprathreshold activation of neurons and their integration into active engrams ("engram cells"). Here we review evidence that ensemble integration may result from LTP but also from cell-autonomous changes in membrane excitability. We propose that synaptic plasticity determines synaptic connectivity maps, whereas intrinsic plasticity-possibly separated in time-amplifies neuronal responsiveness and acutely drives engram integration. Our proposal marks a move away from an exclusively synaptocentric toward a non-exclusive, neurocentric view of learning.

Keywords: Purkinje cell; cerebellum; ensemble; hippocampus; intrinsic; memory engram; neocortex; plasticity; pyramidal cell; synaptic.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Hippocampus / physiology
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*