Experiences, whether they be learning in a classroom, a stressful event, or ingestion of a psychoactive substance, impact the brain by modifying the activity and organization of specific neural circuitry. A major mechanism by which the neural activity generated by an experience modifies brain function is via modifications of synaptic transmission; that is, synaptic plasticity. Here, we review current understanding of the mechanisms of the major forms of synaptic plasticity at excitatory synapses in the mammalian brain. We also provide examples of the possible developmental and behavioral functions of synaptic plasticity and how maladaptive synaptic plasticity may contribute to neuropsychiatric disorders.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
RM gratefully acknowledges support from NIMH, NIDA, NINDS, and NARSAD. AC acknowledges the support of the The International Human Frontier Science Program Organization. We apologize to those colleagues whose work was not cited because of the large scope of this review and severe space limitations.
- AMPA receptors
- Long-term depression
- Long-term potentiation
- NMDA receptors