A Novel Whole-Cell Mechanism for Long-Term Memory Enhancement

Iris Reuveni, Drorit Saar, Edi Barkai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Olfactory-discrimination learning was shown to induce a profound long-lasting enhancement in the strength of excitatory and inhibitory synapses of pyramidal neurons in the piriform cortex. Notably, such enhancement was mostly pronounced in a sub-group of neurons, entailing about a quarter of the cell population. Here we first show that the prominent enhancement in the subset of cells is due to a process in which all excitatory synapses doubled their strength and that this increase was mediated by a single process in which the AMPA channel conductance was doubled. Moreover, using a neuronal-network model, we show how such a multiplicative whole-cell synaptic strengthening in a sub-group of cells that form a memory pattern, sub-serves a profound selective enhancement of this memory. Network modeling further predicts that synaptic inhibition should be modified by complex learning in a manner that much resembles synaptic excitation. Indeed, in a subset of neurons all GABAA-receptors mediated inhibitory synapses also doubled their strength after learning. Like synaptic excitation, Synaptic inhibition is also enhanced by two-fold increase of the single channel conductance. These findings suggest that crucial learning induces a multiplicative increase in strength of all excitatory and inhibitory synapses in a subset of cells, and that such an increase can serve as a long-term whole-cell mechanism to profoundly enhance an existing Hebbian-type memory. This mechanism does not act as synaptic plasticity mechanism that underlies memory formation but rather enhances the response of already existing memory. This mechanism is cell-specific rather than synapse-specific; it modifies the channel conductance rather than the number of channels and thus has the potential to be readily induced and un-induced by whole-cell transduction mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere68131
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number7
StatePublished - 11 Jul 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences
  • General
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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