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Almost since the discovery of long-term potentiation (LTP) in the hippocampus, its locus of expression has been debated. Throughout the years, convincing evidence has accumulated to suggest that LTP can be supported either presynaptically, by an increase in transmitter release, or postsynaptically, by an increase in α-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA) receptor number. However, whereas postsynaptic enhancement appears to be consistently obtained across studies following LTP induction, presynaptic enhancement is not as reliably observed. Such discrepancies, along with the failure to convincingly identify a retrograde messenger required for presynaptic change, have led to the general view that LTP is mainly supported postsynaptically, and certainly, research within the field for the past decade has been heavily focused on the postsynaptic locus. Here, we argue that LTP can be expressed at either synaptic locus, but that pre- and postsynaptic forms of LTP are dissociable phenomena mediated by distinct mechanistic processes, which are sensitive to different patterns of neuronal activity. This view of LTP helps to reconcile discrepancies across the literature and may put to rest a decades-long debate.

Original publication




Journal article


Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci

Publication Date





Schaffer collaterals, hippocampus, long-term potentiation, plasticity, postsynaptic, presynaptic, Hippocampus, Humans, Long-Term Potentiation, Models, Neurological, Nitric Oxide, Post-Synaptic Density, Presynaptic Terminals