Where Ideas Grow

Plasticity and Learning


Memories are not recollections of our past but rather a prediction of the future. For example, when you eat a candy bar you expect it to be good based on prior experience. If it is bad, the brain has to decide whether to form a new memory of candy bar-bad, or simply forget that it happened. Our lab aims at determining the rules by which memories are associated, updated or forgotten.


Memories are what define us as individuals. However, memory is very dynamic, changing as individuals are challenged by the world. Our aim is to understand memory dynamics, to be able to predict what information is kept and what is forgotten. To do this, we have analyzed the heterosynaptic properties of cooperative and competitive maintenance of synaptic potentiation (Neuron, 2004; Neuropsychopharmacology, 2013; Cerebral Cortex, 2020). We found that synaptic cooperation in the lateral amygdala, a circuit important for the acquisition of fear memories, has a restrictive temporal rule, and that the endocannabinoid signaling has a crucial role in determining this temporal rule.
Using an integrative approach to memory dynamics, we aim to:

  • Determine the rules underlying heterosynaptic interaction between synapses, namely the temporal and spatial component that predicts whether synapses engage in synaptic cooperation and/or competition;
  • What is the role of synaptic cooperation and competition during learning? What are the rules that determine whether a memory is maintained or lost depending on the previous knowledge?
  • How does disease alter memory dynamics? We are using a model of post-traumatic stress disorder with individual profiling of animal behavior to address the impact on synaptic plasticity and underpinning potential individual genetic contributions to the development of stress disorders.


Hippocampal pyramidal neuronal dendritic branches (red) and axonal fibers (green) establishing synapses.


Ongoing Projects

Plasticity intersections: rules of heterosynaptic plasticity between dendritic clustered synapses
Reference: 2022.09002.PTDC
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 12-MAR-23 to 11-MAR-26