Date of Award

Spring 5-12-2017

Degree Type

Honors Thesis


Zoology and Physiology

First Advisor

Kara G. Pratt


Memories are formed and stored inside of neural circuits. Synaptic plasticity is the sum of chemical changes occurring within neurons that affect their ability to communicate with one another. This process includes short term potentiation, early long term potentiation, and late long term potentiation. Dendritic plasticity is governed by actin polymerization and the MAPK pathway. Dendritic spines change their shape, volume, and number within seconds. Activation of NMDA receptors by AMPA receptors causes early long term potentiation in the cell and can change the synaptic strength within circuits. Astrocytes communicate with neurons and play an important role in the development of synapses. For long term potentiation to occur, local translation of proteins at the synapse is required. As research of these pathways becomes more complete, new targets of study to understand the overall function of the brain and therapies may become available.