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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Mar;89(3):247-59. Epub 2007 Oct 4.

Altered protein synthesis is a trigger for long-term memory formation.

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Center for Neural Science, New York University, New York, NY, USA.


There is ongoing debate concerning whether new protein synthesis is necessary for, or even contributes to, memory formation and storage. This review summarizes a contemporary model proposing a role for altered protein synthesis in memory formation and its subsequent stabilization. One defining aspect of the model is that altered protein synthesis serves as a trigger for memory consolidation. Thus, we propose that specific alterations in the pattern of neuronal protein translation serve as an initial event in long-term memory formation. These specific alterations in protein readout result in the formation of a protein complex that then serves as a nidus for subsequent perpetuating reinforcement by a positive feedback mechanism. The model proposes this scenario as a minimal but requisite component for long-term memory formation. Our description specifies three aspects of prevailing scenarios for the role of altered protein synthesis in memory that we feel will help clarify what, precisely, is typically proposed as the role for protein translation in memory formation. First, that a relatively short initial time window exists wherein specific alterations in the pattern of proteins translated (not overall protein synthesis) is involved in initializing the engram. Second, that a self-perpetuating positive feedback mechanism maintains the altered pattern of protein expression (synthesis or recruitment) locally. Third, that other than the formation and subsequent perpetuation of the unique initializing proteins, ongoing constitutive protein synthesis is all that is minimally necessary for formation and maintenance of the engram. We feel that a clear delineation of these three principles will assist in interpreting the available experimental data, and propose that the available data are consistent with a role for protein synthesis in memory.

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