Prior learning can modify the plasticity mechanisms that are used to encode new information. For example, NMDA receptor (NMDAR) activation is typically required for new spatial and contextual learning in the hippocampus. However, once animals have acquired this information, they can learn new tasks even if NMDARs are blocked. This finding suggests that behavioral training alters cellular plasticity mechanisms such that NMDARs are not required for subsequent learning. The mechanisms that mediate this change are currently unknown. To address this issue, we tested the idea that changes in intrinsic excitability (induced by learning) facilitate the encoding of new memories via metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) activation. Consistent with this hypothesis, hippocampal neurons exhibited increases in intrinsic excitability after learning that lasted for several days. This increase was selective and only observed in neurons that were activated by the learning event. When animals were trained on a new task during this period, excitable neurons were reactivated and memory formation required the activation of mGluRs instead of NMDARs. These data suggest that increases in intrinsic excitability may serve as a metaplastic mechanism for memory formation.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health