Long-Term Potentiation LTP

Long-term potentiation (LTP) is a long-lasting enhancement in signal transmission between two neurons that results from stimulating them synchronously. It is one of several phenomena underlying synaptic plasticity, the ability of chemical synapses to change their strength. As memories are thought to be encoded by modification of synaptic strength,LTP is widely considered one of the major cellular mechanisms that underlies learning and memory.


LTP shares many features with long-term memory, making it an attractive candidate for a cellular mechanism of learning. For example, LTP and long-term memory are triggered rapidly, each depends upon the synthesis of new proteins, each has properties of associativity, and each can last for many months. LTP may account for many types of learning, from the relatively simple classical conditioning present in all animals, to the more complex, higher-level cognition observed in humans.

At a cellular level, LTP enhances synaptic transmission. It improves the ability of two neurons, one presynaptic and the other postsynaptic, to communicate with one another across a synapse. The precise molecular mechanisms for this enhancement of transmission have not been fully established, in part because LTP is governed by multiple mechanisms that vary by species and brain region. In the most well understood form of LTP, enhanced communication is predominantly carried out by improving the postsynaptic cell's sensitivity to signals received from the presynaptic cell. These signals, in the form of neurotransmitter molecules, are received by neurotransmitter receptors present on the surface of the postsynaptic cell. LTP improves the postsynaptic cell's sensitivity to neurotransmitter in large part by increasing the activity of existing receptors and by increasing the number of receptors on the postsynaptic cell surface.

LTP was discovered in the rabbit hippocampus by Terje Lømo in 1966 and has remained a popular subject of research since. Many modern LTP studies seek to better understand its basic biology, while others aim to draw a causal link between LTP and behavioral learning. Still others try to develop methods, pharmacologic or otherwise, of enhancing LTP to improve learning and memory. LTP is also a subject of clinical research, for example, in the areas of Alzheimer's disease and addiction medicine.

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