Circadian Regulation of Hippocampal-Dependent Memory: Circuits, Synapses, and Molecular Mechanisms

Neural Plast. 2018 Feb 8;2018:7292540. doi: 10.1155/2018/7292540. eCollection 2018.


Circadian modulation of learning and memory efficiency is an evolutionarily conserved phenomenon, occurring in organisms ranging from invertebrates to higher mammalian species, including humans. While the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus functions as the master mammalian pacemaker, recent evidence suggests that forebrain regions, including the hippocampus, exhibit oscillatory capacity. This finding, as well as work on the cellular signaling events that underlie learning and memory, has opened promising new avenues of investigation into the precise cellular, molecular, and circuit-based mechanisms by which clock timing impacts plasticity and cognition. In this review, we examine the complex molecular relationship between clock timing and memory, with a focus on hippocampal-dependent tasks. We evaluate how the dysregulation of circadian timing, both at the level of the SCN and at the level of ancillary forebrain clocks, affects learning and memory. Further, we discuss experimentally validated intracellular signaling pathways (e.g., ERK/MAPK and GSK3β) and potential cellular signaling mechanisms by which the clock affects learning and memory formation. Finally, we examine how long-term potentiation (LTP), a synaptic process critical to the establishment of several forms of memory, is regulated by clock-gated processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*