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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2008 Mar;89(3):293-311. Epub 2007 Nov 28.

The role of protein synthesis in memory consolidation: progress amid decades of debate.

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Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania, 433 S. University Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


A major component of consolidation theory holds that protein synthesis is required to produce the synaptic modification needed for long-term memory storage. Protein synthesis inhibitors have played a pivotal role in the development of this theory. However, these commonly used drugs have unintended effects that have prompted some to reevaluate the role of protein synthesis in memory consolidation. Here we review the role of protein synthesis in memory formation as proposed by consolidation theory calling special attention to the controversy involving the non-specific effects of a group of protein synthesis inhibitors commonly used to study memory formation in vivo. We argue that molecular and genetic approaches that were subsequently applied to the problem of memory formation confirm the results of less selective pharmacological studies. Thus, to a certain extent, the debate over the role of protein synthesis in memory based on interpretational difficulties inherent to the use of protein synthesis inhibitors may be somewhat moot. We conclude by presenting avenues of research we believe will best provide answers to both long-standing and more recent questions facing field of learning and memory.

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