A hallmark feature of our brains is their enormous capacity for information storage and learning. In neuronal circuits, information is stored through long-term changes in the efficacy and gain of synaptic communication, as in long-term potentiation (LTP) and long-term depression (LTD). But what mediates the changes in synaptic gain? Are they due to changes in response properties of individual transmitter receptors, or by changes in the number and density of receptors at the synapses? Recent studies using neuronal cultures suggest that trafficking of receptors in and out of the synaptic membrane regulates synaptic gain. A caveat of these experiments is that cultures keep neurons ‘locked’ in an early developmental stage. Using a combination of patch-clamp recordings and imaging techniques, we want to examine whether glutamate receptor trafficking also plays a key role in synaptic memory storage in the adult brain.
Christian Hansel, Ph.D.