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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Jan 7;111(1):E194-202. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1303317110. Epub 2013 Dec 23.

Distinct kinetics of synaptic structural plasticity, memory formation, and memory decay in massed and spaced learning.

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Division of Cerebral Structure, National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Okazaki 444-8787, Japan.


Long-lasting memories are formed when the stimulus is temporally distributed (spacing effect). However, the synaptic mechanisms underlying this robust phenomenon and the precise time course of the synaptic modifications that occur during learning remain unclear. Here we examined the adaptation of horizontal optokinetic response in mice that underwent 1 h of massed and spaced training at varying intervals. Despite similar acquisition by all training protocols, 1 h of spacing produced the highest memory retention at 24 h, which lasted for 1 mo. The distinct kinetics of memory are strongly correlated with the reduction of floccular parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapses but not with AMPA receptor (AMPAR) number and synapse size. After the spaced training, we observed 25%, 23%, and 12% reduction in AMPAR density, synapse size, and synapse number, respectively. Four hours after the spaced training, half of the synapses and Purkinje cell spines had been eliminated, whereas AMPAR density and synapse size were recovered in remaining synapses. Surprisingly, massed training also produced long-term memory and halving of synapses; however, this occurred slowly over days, and the memory lasted for only 1 wk. This distinct kinetics of structural plasticity may serve as a basis for unique temporal profiles in the formation and decay of memory with or without intervals.


AMPA receptor reduction; cerebellar motor learning; synapse shrinkage and elimination

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