There has been nearly a century of interest in the idea that information is stored in the brain as changes in the efficacy of synaptic connections between 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 and molecular bases of learning and memory. 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. Here we briefly review these mechanisms and illustrate with a few examples of animal models of neurological disorders how new knowledge about these mechanisms can provide valuable insights into identifying the mechanisms that go awry when memory is deficient, and how, in turn, characterisation of the dysfunctional mechanisms offers prospects to design and evaluate molecular and biobehavioural strategies for therapeutic prevention and rescue.
Keywords: hippocampus, ageing, memory formation, duchenne muscular dystrophy, environmental enrichment, animal models
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