Spatial and temporal aspects of synaptic plasticity

Georgios Kalantzis, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The notion that changes in synaptic efficacy underlie learning and memory processes is now widely accepted even if definitive proof of the synaptic plasticity and memory hypothesis is still lacking. When learning occurs, patterns of neural activity representing the occurrence of events cause changes in the strength of synaptic connections within the brain. Reactivation of these altered connections constitutes the experience of memory for these events and for other events with which they may be associated. These statements summarize a long-standing theory of memory formation that we refer to as the synaptic plasticity and memory hypothesis. Since activity-dependent synaptic plasticity is induced at appropriate synapses during memory formation, and is both necessary and sufficient for the information storage, we can speculate that a methodological study of the synapse will help us understand the mechanism of learning. Random events underlie a wide range of biological processes as diverse as genetic drift and molecular diffusion, regulation of gene expression and neural network function. Additionally spatial variability may be important especially in systems with nonlinear behavior. Since synapse is a complex biological system we expect that stochasticity as well as spatial gradients of different enzymes may be significant for induction of plasticity. In that study we address the question "how important spatial and temporal aspects of synaptic plasticity may be". We developed methods to justify our basic assumptions and examined the main sources of variability of calcium dynamics. Among them, a physiological method to estimate the number of postsynaptic receptors as well as a hybrid algorithm for simulating postsynaptic calcium dynamics. Additionally we studied how synaptic geometry may enhance any possible spatial gradient of calcium dynamics and how that spatial variability affect plasticity curves. Finally, we explored the potential of structural synaptic plasticity to provide a metaplasticity mechanism specific for the synapse.

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Recommended Citation

Kalantzis, Georgios, "Spatial and temporal aspects of synaptic plasticity" (2009). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3383832.