How long will long-term potentiation last?

Wickliffe C. Abraham


The paramount feature of long-term potentiation (LTP) as a memory mechanism is its characteristic persistence over time. Although the basic phenomenology of LTP persistence was established 30 years ago, new insights have emerged recently about the extent of LTP persistence and its regulation by activity and experience. Thus, it is now evident that LTP, at least in the dentate gyrus, can either be decremental, lasting from hours to weeks, or stable, lasting months or longer. Although mechanisms engaged during the induction of LTP regulate its subsequent persistence, the maintenance of LTP is also governed by activity patterns post-induction, whether induced experimentally or generated by experience. These new findings establish dentate gyrus LTP as a useful model system for studying the mechanisms governing the induction, maintenance and interference with long-term memory, including very long-term memory lasting months or longer. The challenge is to study LTP persistence in other brain areas, and to relate, if possible, the properties and regulation of LTP maintenance to these same properties of the information that is actually stored in those regions.