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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Brain‐derived neurotrophic factor Val66Met polymorphism, human memory, and synaptic neuroplasticity

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Some people have much better memory than others, and there is compelling evidence that a considerable proportion of this variation in memory ability is genetically inherited. A form of synaptic plasticity known as long‐term potentiation (LTP) is the principal candidate mechanism underlying memory formation in neural circuits, and it might be expected, therefore, that a genetic influence on the degree of LTP might in turn influence memory abilities. Of the genetic variations thought to significantly influence mnemonic ability in humans, the most likely to have its effect via LTP is a single nucleotide polymorphism affecting brain‐derived neurotrophic factor [BDNF (Val66Met)]. However, although it is likely that BDNF influences memory via a modulation of acute plasticity (i.e., LTP), BDNF also has considerable influence on structural development of neural systems. Thus, the influence of BDNF (Val66Met) on mnemonic performance via influences of brain structure as well as function must also be considered. In this brief review, we will describe the phenomenon of LTP and its study in non‐human animals. We will discuss the relatively recent attempts to translate this work to studies in humans. We will describe how this has enabled investigation of the effect of the BDNF polymorphism on LTP, on brain structure, and on memory performance. WIREs Cogn Sci 2015, 6:97–108. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1334 This article is categorized under: Neuroscience > Cognition Neuroscience > Plasticity
(a) Pre‐ and post‐tetanus average evoked potentials recorded over the occipital cortex contralateral to the visual stimulus. (b) An independent components analysis identified five components of the visual evoked response (VEP) to checkerboard stimuli. (c) Checkerboard stimuli (subtending 4° visual angle with three checks per degree) to the left or right visual hemifield elicited a contralateral P100 response (left panel) and a bilateral N1b response (right panel) in occipital cortex. (d) Repetitive presentation of the checkerboard (at 9 Hz) led to a significant change in only the N1b component (right panel). The amplitude of the P100 (left panel), for example, did not change significantly. (Reprinted with permission from Ref . Copyright Wiley‐Blackwell 2005).
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