Long-term potentiation and learning

Annu Rev Psychol. 1996:47:173-203. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.47.1.173.


Long-term potentiation (LTP), a relatively long-lived increase in synaptic strength, remains the mot popular model for the cellular process that may underlie information storage within neural systems. The strongest arguments for a role of LTP in memory are theoretical and involve Hebb's Postulate, Marr's theory of hippocampal function, and neural network theory. Considering LTP research as a whole, few studies have addressed the essential question: Is LTP a process involved in learning and memory? The present manuscript reviews research that attempts to link LTP with learning and memory, focusing on studies utilizing electrophysiological, pharmacological, and molecular biological methodologies. Most evidence firmly supports a role for LTP in learning memory. However, an unequivocal experimental demonstration of a contribution of LTP to memory is hampered by our lack of knowledge of the biological basis of memory and of the ways in which memories are represented in ensembles of neurons, the existence of a variety of cellular forms of LTP, and the likely resistance of distributed memory stores to degradation by treatments that incompletely disrupt LTP.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hippocampus / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology*
  • Memory / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology
  • Receptors, Opioid / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Receptors, Opioid