concentrates on a central biomedical problem: the nature of nerve cell
changes underlying learning and memory. The objectives are to elucidate
the molecular changes occurring in the coupling between nerve cells
taking part in a learning process. The objectives will be achieved by
assessing the behavioural correlates of a cellular model of learning
- long-term potentiation (LTP) - in the belief that this phenomenon
represents a biological universal used by higher and lower animals.
In spite of extensive effort, a clear relation between LTP and behaviourally
induced learning is still lacking, largely due to the absence of convincing
learning tests. In addition to behavioural assays, the project will
employ state-of-the-art electrical and optical imaging techniques to
determine the biophysical properties of the synapses involved. The molecular
alterations of these nerve cells lie at the foundation for new ways
to diagnose, prevent, and possibly treat learning and memory defects.