Plasticity and behavior: new genetic techniques to address multiple forms and functions.
As the best-studied form of vertebrate synaptic plasticity, NMDA-receptor dependent long-term potentiation (NMDAR-LTP) has long been considered a leading candidate for a cellular locus for some aspects of learning and memory. However, assigning a specific role for this form of plasticity in learning and memory has proven surprisingly difficult. Two issues have contributed to this difficulty. First, a large number of molecules have been shown to in some way mediate or modulate not only NMDAR-LTP but also many forms of plasticity. Indeed, it is increasingly clear that multiple induction and maintenance mechanisms for plasticity exist, often at the same synapse. Second, linking cellular events to behavioral function has been hindered by a lack of sufficiently precise tools. In this review, we will discuss some of the proposed mechanisms of induction and maintenance of changes in synaptic efficacy and their regulation in the context of an attempt to understand their roles in animal behavior. Further, we will discuss recently developed genetic techniques, specifically, inducible transgenic models, which now allow more precise manipulations in the study of the roles plasticity plays in learning and memory.
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