Long-term Depression

Long-term depression (LTD), in neurophysiology, is an activity-dependent reduction in the efficacy of neuronal synapses lasting hours or longer following a long patterned stimulus. LTD occurs in many areas of the CNS with varying mechanisms depending upon brain region and developmental progress. LTD in the hippocampus and cerebellum have been the best characterized, but there are other brain areas in which mechanisms of LTD are understood. LTD has also been found to occur in different types of neurons that release various neurotransmitters, however, the most common neurotransmitter involved in LTD is L-glutamate. L-glutamate acts on the N-methyl-D- asparate receptors (NMDARs), α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methylisoxazole-4-propionicacid receptors (AMPARs), kinate receptors (KARs) and metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) during LTD. It can result from strong synaptic stimulation (as occurs in the cerebellar Purkinje cells) or from persistent weak synaptic stimulation (as in the hippocampus). Long-term potentiation (LTP) is the opposing process to LTD; it is the long-lasting increase of synaptic strength. In conjunction, LTD and LTP are factors affecting neuronal synaptic plasticity. LTD is thought to result mainly from a decrease in postsynaptic receptor density, although a decrease in presynaptic neurotransmitter release may also play a role. Cerebellar LTD has been hypothesized to be important for motor learning. However, it is likely that other plasticity mechanisms play a role as well. Hippocampal LTD may be important for the clearing of old memory traces. Hippocampal/cortical LTD can be dependent on NMDA receptors, metabotrophic glutamate receptors (mGluR), or endocannabinoids. The result of the underlying-LTD molecular mechanism is the phosphorylation of AMPA glutamate receptors and their elimination from the surface of the PF-PC synapse.

LTD is one of several processes that serves to selectively weaken specific synapses in order to make constructive use of synaptic strengthening caused by LTP. This is necessary because, if allowed to continue increasing in strength, synapses would ultimately reach a ceiling level of efficiency, which would inhibit the encoding of new information.

Read more about Long-term Depression:  Neural Homeostasis, General Forms of LTD, Role of Endocannabinoids, Spike Timing-dependent Plasticity, Motor Learning and Memory, Current Research

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