Synapse formation is associated with memory storage in the cerebellum

Jeffrey A. Kleim, John H. Freeman, Rochelle Bruneau, Brian C. Nolan, Natalie R. Cooper, Alison Zook, Drew Walters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

146 Scopus citations


The idea that memory is encoded by means of synaptic growth is not new. However, this idea has been difficult to demonstrate in the mammalian brain because of both the complexity of mammalian behavior and the neural circuitry by which it is supported. Here we examine how eyeblink classical conditioning affects synapse number within the cerebellum; the brain region essential for long-term retention of the conditioned response. Results showed eyeblink-conditioned rats to have significantly more synapses per neuron within the cerebellar interpositus nucleus than both explicitly unpaired and untrained controls. Further analysis showed that the increase was caused by the addition of excitatory rather than inhibitory synapses. Thus, development of the conditioned eyeblink response is associated with a strengthening of inputs from precerebellar nuclei rather than from cerebellar cortex. These results demonstrate that the modifications of specific neural pathways by means of synaptogenesis contributes to formation of a specific memory within the mammalian brain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13228-13231
Number of pages4
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number20
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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