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Mol Brain. 2009 Feb 3;2:4. doi: 10.1186/1756-6606-2-4.

Plasticity of NMDA receptor NR2B subunit in memory and chronic pain.

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Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto Centre for the Study of Pain, University of Toronto, 1 King's College Circle, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A8, Canada.


Glutamatergic synapses play critical roles in brain functions and diseases. Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a most effective cellular model for investigating the synaptic changes that underlie learning as well as brain disease--although different molecular mechanisms are likely involved in LTP in physiological and pathological conditions. In the case of learning, N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor is known to be important for triggering learning-related plasticity; alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic (AMPA) receptors are thought to be important for the expression of synaptic changes. In this review, I will examine recent evidence on the novel roles of NMDA receptors, in particular NR2B subunit-containing NMDA receptors in learning and chronic pain. A positive feedback control of NR2B receptor subunit is proposed to explain cortical sensitization involved in chronic pain, but not learning and memory.

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