Cellular and molecular mechanisms of memory. Volume 18, supplement 2, Numéro spécial, Septembre 2006

Laboratoire de Neurobiologie de l’Apprentissage, de la Mémoire et de la Communication, CNRS UMR 8620, Université Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France

There has been nearly a century of interest in the idea that information is encoded in the brain as specific spatio-temporal patterns of activity in distributed networks and stored as changes in the efficacy of synaptic connections on neurons that are activated during learning. The discovery and detailed report of the phenomenon generally known as long-term potentiation opened a new chapter in the study of synaptic plasticity in the vertebrate brain, and this form of synaptic plasticity has now become the dominant model in the search for the cellular bases of learning and memory. To date, the key events in the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic plasticity are starting to be identified. They require the activation of specific receptors and of several molecular cascades to convert extracellular signals into persistent fonctional changes in neuronal connectivity. Accumulating evidence suggests that the rapid activation of the genetic machinery is a key mechanism underlying the enduring modification of neural networks required for the laying down of memory. The recent developments in the search for the cellular and molecular mechanisms of memory storage are reviewed.