A Model of Late Long-Term Potentiation Simulates Aspects of Memory Maintenance

Smolen, Paul
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Late long-term potentiation (L-LTP) appears essential for the formation of long-term memory, with memories at least partly encoded by patterns of strengthened synapses. How memories are preserved for months or years, despite molecular turnover, is not well understood. Ongoing recurrent neuronal activity, during memory recall or during sleep, has been hypothesized to preferentially potentiate strong synapses, preserving memories. This hypothesis has not been evaluated in the context of a mathematical model representing biochemical pathways important for L-LTP. I incorporated ongoing activity into two such models: a reduced model that represents some of the essential biochemical processes, and a more detailed published model. The reduced model represents synaptic tagging and gene induction intuitively, and the detailed model adds activation of essential kinases by Ca. Ongoing activity was modeled as continual brief elevations of [Ca]. In each model, two stable states of synaptic weight resulted. Positive feedback between synaptic weight and the amplitude of ongoing Ca transients underlies this bistability. A tetanic or theta-burst stimulus switches a model synapse from a low weight to a high weight stabilized by ongoing activity. Bistability was robust to parameter variations. Simulations illustrated that prolonged decreased activity reset synapses to low weights, suggesting a plausible forgetting mechanism. However, episodic activity with shorter inactive intervals maintained strong synapses. Both models support experimental predictions. Tests of these predictions are expected to further understanding of how neuronal activity is coupled to maintenance of synaptic strength.
Comment: Accepted to PLoS One. 8 figures at end
Quantitative Biology - Neurons and Cognition, Quantitative Biology - Molecular Networks