The human brain contains ~86 billion neurons, which are precisely organized in specific brain regions and nuclei. High fidelity synaptic communication between subsets of neurons in specific circuits is required for most human behaviors, and is often disrupted in neuropsychiatric disorders. The presynaptic axon terminals of one neuron release neurotransmitters that activate receptors on multiple postsynaptic neuron targets to induce electrical and chemical responses. Typically, postsynaptic neurons integrate signals from multiple presynaptic neurons at thousands of synaptic inputs to control downstream communication to the next neuron in the circuit. Importantly, the strength (or efficiency) of signal transmission at each synapse can be modulated on time scales ranging up to the lifetime of the organism. This "synaptic plasticity" leads to changes in overall neuronal circuit activity, resulting in behavioral modifications. This series of minireviews will focus on recent advances in our understanding of the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control synaptic plasticity.
© 2015 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.