News FocusNeurobiology

New Clues to How Neurons Strengthen Their Connections

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Science  11 Jun 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5421, pp. 1755-1757
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5421.1755

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New results point to the AMPA receptor for glutamate as playing a key role in the changes underlying long-term potentiation (LTP), a kind of synapse strengthening that may be involved in memory and learning. Neurobiologists had previously thought that the AMPA receptor is present at relatively unchanging levels in the vast majority of synapses on glutamate-sensitive neurons. Two teams, one of which reports in this issue of Science (p. 1811) and the other in the May issue of Nature Neuroscience, have now shown that AMPA receptors move into and out of synapses as synaptic connections strengthen and weaken, while on page 1805, a third team provides indirect evidence that the movements are needed for LTP to occur. Taken together, the results give strong evidence that the regulation of AMPA receptors is key to modulating synapse strength.