From an article at neurosciencenews.com:
Summary: Study reveals receptor movement is essential for synaptic plasticity as a response to neural activity. Halting receptor movement may block specific memory acquisition, researchers report, thus confirming the role of synaptic plasticity in learning and memory.
Researchers in Bordeaux recently discovered a new mechanism for storing information in synapses and a means of controlling the storage process. The breakthrough moves science closer to unveiling the mystery of the molecular mechanisms of memory and learning processes. The research, carried out primarily by researchers at the Interdisciplinary Institute for Neurosciences (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux) and the Bordeaux Imaging Center (CNRS/Université de Bordeaux/Inserm), appears in the 13 september 2017 edition of Nature.
Communication between neurons passes through over one million billion synapses, tiny structures the tenth of the width of a single hair, in an extremely complex process. Synaptic plasticity – the ability of synapses to adapt in response to neuronal activity – was discovered nearly 50 years ago, leading the scientific community to identify it as a vital functional component of memorisation and learning.
Neurotransmitter receptors – found at the synapse level – play a key role in the transmission of nerve messages. A few years ago, the team of researchers in Bordeaux discovered that neurotransmitter receptors were not immobile as thought previously, but in a constant state of agitation. They posited that controlling this agitation through neuronal activity could modulate the effectiveness of synaptic transmission by regulating the number of receptors present at a given time in a synapse.