Structural plasticity: mechanisms and contribution to developmental psychiatric disorders

  • Bernardinelli Y
  • Nikonenko I
  • Muller D
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© 2014 Bernardinelli, Nikonenko and Muller.Synaptic plasticity mechanisms are usually discussed in terms of changes in synaptic strength. The capacity of excitatory synapses to rapidly modify the membrane expression of glutamate receptors in an activity-dependent manner plays a critical role in learning and memory processes by re-distributing activity within neuronal networks. Recent work has however also shown that functional plasticity properties are associated with a rewiring of synaptic connections and a selective stabilization of activated synapses. These structural aspects of plasticity have the potential to continuously modify the organization of synaptic networks and thereby introduce specificity in the wiring diagram of cortical circuits. Recent work has started to unravel some of the molecular mechanisms that underlie these properties of structural plasticity, highlighting an important role of signaling pathways that are also major candidates for contributing to developmental psychiatric disorders. We review here some of these recent advances and discuss the hypothesis that alterations of structural plasticity could represent a common mechanism contributing to the cognitive and functional defects observed in diseases such as intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.




Bernardinelli, Y., Nikonenko, I., & Muller, D. (2014). Structural plasticity: mechanisms and contribution to developmental psychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Neuroanatomy, 8.

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