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      Synaptic computation.

      Nature

      Animals, Neuronal Plasticity, physiology, Neurons, cytology, Sound Localization, Synapses, Synaptic Transmission

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          Abstract

          Neurons are often considered to be the computational engines of the brain, with synapses acting solely as conveyers of information. But the diverse types of synaptic plasticity and the range of timescales over which they operate suggest that synapses have a more active role in information processing. Long-term changes in the transmission properties of synapses provide a physiological substrate for learning and memory, whereas short-term changes support a variety of computations. By expressing several forms of synaptic plasticity, a single neuron can convey an array of different signals to the neural circuit in which it operates.

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          Most cited references 62

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          Short-term synaptic plasticity.

          Synaptic transmission is a dynamic process. Postsynaptic responses wax and wane as presynaptic activity evolves. This prominent characteristic of chemical synaptic transmission is a crucial determinant of the response properties of synapses and, in turn, of the stimulus properties selected by neural networks and of the patterns of activity generated by those networks. This review focuses on synaptic changes that result from prior activity in the synapse under study, and is restricted to short-term effects that last for at most a few minutes. Forms of synaptic enhancement, such as facilitation, augmentation, and post-tetanic potentiation, are usually attributed to effects of a residual elevation in presynaptic [Ca(2+)]i, acting on one or more molecular targets that appear to be distinct from the secretory trigger responsible for fast exocytosis and phasic release of transmitter to single action potentials. We discuss the evidence for this hypothesis, and the origins of the different kinetic phases of synaptic enhancement, as well as the interpretation of statistical changes in transmitter release and roles played by other factors such as alterations in presynaptic Ca(2+) influx or postsynaptic levels of [Ca(2+)]i. Synaptic depression dominates enhancement at many synapses. Depression is usually attributed to depletion of some pool of readily releasable vesicles, and various forms of the depletion model are discussed. Depression can also arise from feedback activation of presynaptic receptors and from postsynaptic processes such as receptor desensitization. In addition, glial-neuronal interactions can contribute to short-term synaptic plasticity. Finally, we summarize the recent literature on putative molecular players in synaptic plasticity and the effects of genetic manipulations and other modulatory influences.
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            Long-term potentiation and memory.

             M A Lynch (2004)
            One of the most significant challenges in neuroscience is to identify the cellular and molecular processes that underlie learning and memory formation. The past decade has seen remarkable progress in understanding changes that accompany certain forms of acquisition and recall, particularly those forms which require activation of afferent pathways in the hippocampus. This progress can be attributed to a number of factors including well-characterized animal models, well-defined probes for analysis of cell signaling events and changes in gene transcription, and technology which has allowed gene knockout and overexpression in cells and animals. Of the several animal models used in identifying the changes which accompany plasticity in synaptic connections, long-term potentiation (LTP) has received most attention, and although it is not yet clear whether the changes that underlie maintenance of LTP also underlie memory consolidation, significant advances have been made in understanding cell signaling events that contribute to this form of synaptic plasticity. In this review, emphasis is focused on analysis of changes that occur after learning, especially spatial learning, and LTP and the value of assessing these changes in parallel is discussed. The effect of different stressors on spatial learning/memory and LTP is emphasized, and the review concludes with a brief analysis of the contribution of studies, in which transgenic animals were used, to the literature on memory/learning and LTP.
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              Role of endogenous cannabinoids in synaptic signaling.

              Research of cannabinoid actions was boosted in the 1990s by remarkable discoveries including identification of endogenous compounds with cannabimimetic activity (endocannabinoids) and the cloning of their molecular targets, the CB1 and CB2 receptors. Although the existence of an endogenous cannabinoid signaling system has been established for a decade, its physiological roles have just begun to unfold. In addition, the behavioral effects of exogenous cannabinoids such as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, the major active compound of hashish and marijuana, await explanation at the cellular and network levels. Recent physiological, pharmacological, and high-resolution anatomical studies provided evidence that the major physiological effect of cannabinoids is the regulation of neurotransmitter release via activation of presynaptic CB1 receptors located on distinct types of axon terminals throughout the brain. Subsequent discoveries shed light on the functional consequences of this localization by demonstrating the involvement of endocannabinoids in retrograde signaling at GABAergic and glutamatergic synapses. In this review, we aim to synthesize recent progress in our understanding of the physiological roles of endocannabinoids in the brain. First, the synthetic pathways of endocannabinoids are discussed, along with the putative mechanisms of their release, uptake, and degradation. The fine-grain anatomical distribution of the neuronal cannabinoid receptor CB1 is described in most brain areas, emphasizing its general presynaptic localization and role in controlling neurotransmitter release. Finally, the possible functions of endocannabinoids as retrograde synaptic signal molecules are discussed in relation to synaptic plasticity and network activity patterns.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                15483601
                10.1038/nature03010

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