Chapter Summary

In this chapter, we explored several of the fundamentally important issues related to information storage in neurons. How is a persisting biochemical signal generated? How is that signal transmitted to an effector system to alter neuronal function? If there are multiple biochemical mechanisms for information storage, how might one mechanism transition into the next? In addressing these critical issues, a number of specific molecular mechanisms were proposed in the context of E-LTP at Schaffer-collateral synapses. Our models focused on persistent post-translational modifications as maintenance mechanisms, and on postsynaptic receptors as target effectors of these maintenance signals. Some of the models proposed may be wrong in their particulars, and likely some of the models are relevant to some types of LTP but not others. Future studies will refine and clarify these issues.

Nevertheless, the three decades-worth of studies on mechanisms of E-LTP stand as meaningful contributions to our understanding of the basics of molecular information storage in the nervous system. Much, much progress has been made in defining the basic biochemical mechanisms available to the neuron that allow it to generate a persisting signal and translate that signal into a persisting effect. This work also has begun to define the biochemical processes that can be used by any central synapse for augmenting the strength of its synaptic connections. Thus, investigations into the biochemistry of E-LTP have given us insights into the fundamental cell biology of the neuron.


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Genomic Regulation in Memory Formation J. David Sweatt, Acrylic on canvas, 2002

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