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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Mar;89(3):269-84. Epub 2007 Oct 10.

Networks of neurons, networks of genes: an integrated view of memory consolidation.

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Department of Neurobiology & Behavior, and Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA 92697-3800, USA.


Investigations into the mechanisms of memory formation have abided by the central tenet of the consolidation theory-that memory formation occurs in stages which differ in their requirement for protein synthesis. The current most widely accepted hypothesis posits that new memories are encoded as neural activity-induced changes in synaptic efficacy, and stabilization of these changes requires de novo protein synthesis. However, the basic assumptions of this view have been challenged by concerns regarding the specificity of the effects of the protein synthesis inhibitors used to support the claim. Studies on immediate-early genes (IEGs), in particular Arc, provide a distinct and independent perspective on the issue of the requirement of new protein synthesis in synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation. The IEG Arc and its protein are dynamically induced in response to neuronal activity, and are directly involved in synaptic plasticity and memory consolidation. Although we provide extensive data on Arc's properties to address the requirement of genomic and proteomic responses in memory formation, Arc is merely one element in a network of genes that interact in a coordinated fashion to serve memory consolidation. From gene expression and other studies, we propose the view that the stabilization of a memory trace is a continuous and ongoing process, which does not have a discrete endpoint and cannot be reduced to a single deterministic "molecular cascade". Rather, memory traces are maintained within metastable networks, which must integrate and update past traces with new ones. Such an updating process may well recruit and use many of the plasticity mechanisms necessary for the initial encoding of memory.

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