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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2013, Article ID 185463, 11 pages
Review Article

The Role of Astrocytes in the Regulation of Synaptic Plasticity and Memory Formation

Neuroscience Program, Skidmore College, 815 N Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866, USA

Received 31 July 2013; Revised 7 October 2013; Accepted 5 November 2013

Academic Editor: Yann Bernardinelli

Copyright © 2013 Yusuke Ota et al. 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.


Astrocytes regulate synaptic transmission and play a role in the formation of new memories, long-term potentiation (LTP), and functional synaptic plasticity. Specifically, astroglial release of glutamate, ATP, and cytokines likely alters the survivability and functioning of newly formed connections. Among these pathways, regulation of glutamate appears to be most directly related to the promotion of LTP, which is highly dependent on the synchronization of synaptic receptors through the regulation of excitatory postsynaptic potentials. Moreover, regulation of postsynaptic glutamate receptors, particularly AMPA receptors, is dependent on signaling by ATP synthesized in astrocytes. Finally, cytokine signaling is also implicated in regulating LTP, but is likely most important in plasticity following tissue damage. Despite the role of these signaling factors in regulating LTP and functional plasticity, an integrative model of these factors has not yet been elucidated. In this review, we seek to summarize the current body of evidence on astrocytic mechanisms for regulation of LTP and functional plasticity, and provide an integrative model of the processes.