Synaptic efficacy is commonly regulated within a nervous system and predicts individual differences in learning

Louis D. Matzel, Chetan C. Gandhi, Isabel A. Muzzio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The hypothesis that an individual's capacity for learning might be predicted or influenced by basal levels of synaptic efficacy has eluded empirical tests, owing in part to the inability to compare between animals single identified synaptic responses in the mammalian brain. To overcome this limitation, we have focused our analysis on the invertebrate Hermissenda, whose nervous system is composed of identifiable cells and synaptic interactions. Hermissenda were exposed to paired presentations of light and rotation such that the light came to elicit a learned defensive motor response. An animal's rate of learning was strongly correlated with the amplitude of the synaptic potential evoked in that animal's visual (light sensitive) receptors in response to stimulation of presynaptic vestibular (rotation sensitive) hair cells. In naive animals, strong correlations between the amplitude of both inhibitory and excitatory synaptic potentials were observed between synapses distributed throughout an animal's nervous system, and this conservation of synaptic efficacy was largely attributable to a common influence on transmitter release. These observations suggest that basal synaptic efficacy may be uniformly regulated throughout a nervous system, and provide direct evidence that the basal efficacy of synaptic transmission predicts, and possibly contributes to, individual differences between animals in their capacity to learn. (C) 2000 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1253-1258
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - Apr 27 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)


  • Associative learning
  • Exocytosis
  • Individual differences
  • Invertebrate
  • Memory
  • Synaptic efficacy
  • Synaptic transmission

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