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Nat Neurosci. 2019 Feb;22(2):154-166. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0325-8. Epub 2019 Jan 21.

Astrocyte function from information processing to cognition and cognitive impairment.

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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Neuroscience Center Zurich, University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience, Department of Psychiatry, Lausanne University Hospital, Prilly-Lausanne, Switzerland.
Department of Fundamental Neuroscience, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland.


Astrocytes serve important roles that affect recruitment and function of neurons at the local and network levels. Here we review the contributions of astrocyte signaling to synaptic plasticity, neuronal network oscillations, and memory function. The roles played by astrocytes are not fully understood, but astrocytes seem to contribute to memory consolidation and seem to mediate the effects of vigilance and arousal on memory performance. Understanding the role of astrocytes in cognitive processes may also advance our understanding of how these processes go awry in pathological conditions. Indeed, abnormal astrocytic signaling can cause or contribute to synaptic and network imbalances, leading to cognitive impairment. We discuss evidence for this from animal models of Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis and from animal studies of sleep deprivation and drug abuse and addiction. Understanding the emerging roles of astrocytes in cognitive function and dysfunction will open up a large array of new therapeutic opportunities.


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