Article

Journal of Neural Transmission. Supplementa

Department of BioMedical Sciences, Modena, Italy.
Journal of neural transmission. Supplementum (Impact Factor: 1.07). 02/2003; 65(65):1-28. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-7091-0643-3_1
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Learning in neuronal networks occurs by instructions to the neurons to change their synaptic weights (i.e., efficacies). According to the present model a molecular mechanism that can contribute to change synaptic weights may be represented by multiple interactions between membrane receptors forming aggregates (receptor mosaics) via oligomerization at both pre- and post-synaptic level. These assemblies of receptors together with inter alia single receptors, adapter proteins, G-proteins and ion channels form the membrane bound part of a complex three-dimensional (3D) molecular circuit, the cytoplasmic part of which consists especially of protein kinases, protein phosphatases and phosphoproteins. It is suggested that this molecular circuit has the capability to learn and store information. Thus, engram formation will depend on the resetting of 3D molecular circuits via the formation of new receptor mosaics capable of addressing the transduction of the chemical messages impinging on the cell membrane to certain sets of G-proteins. Short-term memory occurs by a transient stabilization of the receptor mosaics producing the appropriate change in the synaptic weight. Engram consolidation (long-term memory) may involve intracellular signals that translocate to the nucleus to cause the activation of immediate early genes and subsequent formation of postulated adapter proteins which stabilize the receptor mosaics with the formation of long-lived heteromeric receptor complexes. The receptor mosaic hypothesis of the engram formation has been formulated in agreement with the Hebbian rule and gives a novel molecular basis for it by postulating that the pre-synaptic activity change in transmitter and modulator release reorganizes the receptor mosaics at post-synaptic level and subsequently at pre-synaptic level with the formation of novel 3D molecular circuits leading to a different integration of chemical signals impinging on pre- and post-synaptic membranes hence leading to a new value of the synaptic weight. Engram retrieval is brought about by the scanning of the target networks by the highly divergent arousal systems. Hence, a continuous reverberating process occurs both at the level of the neural networks as well as at the level of the 3D molecular circuits within each neuron of the network until the appropriate tuning of the synaptic weights is obtained and, subsequently, the reappearance of the engram occurs. Learning and memory in the basal ganglia is discussed in the frame of the present hypothesis. It is proposed that formation of long-term memories (consolidated receptor mosaics) in the plasma membranes of the striosomal GABA neurons may play a major role in the motivational learning of motor skills of relevance for survival. In conclusion, long-lived heteromeric receptor complexes of high order may be crucial for learning, memory and retrieval processes, where extensive reciprocal feedback loops give rise to coherent synchronized neural activity (binding) essential for a sophisticated information handling by the central nervous system.

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    • "These parameters can affect both the acquisition of the active state by the receptor and the effector to be activated. Because RMs are connected with effector proteins (e.g., enzymes and ion channels) and work as an integrative unit in HMNs, it has been proposed that RMs at the synaptic level can affect the efficacy of the synaptic transmission (synaptic weight) and therefore might have a role in learning and memory processes (see below; Agnati et al., 2002, 2003b). This was the basic idea that led us to introduce the RM hypothesis of the engram (Agnati et al., 1982). "
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