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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012 Jun 1;4(6). pii: a005751. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a005751.

Synapses and memory storage.

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  • 1The Scripps Research Institute, Department of Cell Biology, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


The synapse is the functional unit of the brain. During the last several decades we have acquired a great deal of information on its structure, molecular components, and physiological function. It is clear that synapses are morphologically and molecularly diverse and that this diversity is recruited to different functions. One of the most intriguing findings is that the size of the synaptic response in not invariant, but can be altered by a variety of homo- and heterosynaptic factors such as past patterns of use or modulatory neurotransmitters. Perhaps the most difficult challenge in neuroscience is to design experiments that reveal how these basic building blocks of the brain are put together and how they are regulated to mediate the information flow through neural circuits that is necessary to produce complex behaviors and store memories. In this review we will focus on studies that attempt to uncover the role of synaptic plasticity in the regulation of whole-animal behavior by learning and memory.

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