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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2012, Article ID 945373, 18 pages
Review Article

Cellular Signal Mechanisms of Reward-Related Plasticity in the Hippocampus

Department of Biomedicine, College of Biomedical Sciences and Health Professions, The University of Texas at Brownsville, 80 Fort Brown, Brownsville, TX 78520, USA

Received 8 August 2012; Revised 22 September 2012; Accepted 23 September 2012

Academic Editor: Michel Baudry

Copyright © 2012 Masako Isokawa. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The hippocampus has the extraordinary capacity to process and store information. Consequently, there is an intense interest in the mechanisms that underline learning and memory. Synaptic plasticity has been hypothesized to be the neuronal substrate for learning. Ca2+ and Ca2+-activated kinases control cellular processes of most forms of hippocampal synapse plasticity. In this paper, I aim to integrate our current understanding of Ca2+-mediated synaptic plasticity and metaplasticity in motivational and reward-related learning in the hippocampus. I will introduce two representative neuromodulators that are widely studied in reward-related learning (e.g., ghrelin and endocannabinoids) and show how they might contribute to hippocampal neuron activities and Ca2+-mediated signaling processes in synaptic plasticity. Additionally, I will discuss functional significance of these two systems and their signaling pathways for its relevance to maladaptive reward learning leading to addiction.