Molecular biology of learning: modulation of transmitter release

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Science  29 Oct 1982:
Vol. 218, Issue 4571, pp. 433-443
DOI: 10.1126/science.6289442


Until recently, it has been impossible to approach learning with the techniques of cell biology. During the past several years, elementary forms of learning have been analyzed in higher invertebrates. Their nervous systems allow the experimental study of behavioral, neurophysiological, morphological, biochemical, and genetic components of the functional (plastic) changes underlying learning. In this review, we focus primarily on short-term sensitization of the gill and siphon reflex in the marine mollusk, Aplysia californica. Analyses of this form of learning provide direct evidence that protein phosphorylation dependent on cyclic adenosine monophosphate can modulate synaptic action. These studies also suggest how the molecular mechanisms for this short-term form of synaptic plasticity can be extended to explain both long-term memory and classical conditioning.

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