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Journal Article

Astrocytes and Synaptic Plasticity


Barker,  Alison J.
Social Systems and Circuits Group, Max Planck Institute for Brain Research, Max Planck Society;
Department of Ophthalmology, University of California, San Francisco, California, USA.;

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Barker, A. J., & Ullian, E. M. (2010). Astrocytes and Synaptic Plasticity. The Neuroscientist, 16(1), 40-50. doi:10.1177/1073858409339215.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-63DE-E
Synaptic plasticity, the ability of neurons to change the number and strength of their synapses, has long been considered the sole province of the neuron. Yet neurons do not function in isolation; they are a part of elaborate glial networks where they are intimately associated with astrocytes. Astrocytes make extensive contacts with synaptic sites where they release soluble factors that can increase synapse number, provide synaptic insulation restricting the spread of neurotransmitter to neighboring synapses, and release neuroactive compounds, gliotransmitters, that can directly influence synaptic transmission. During periods of synaptogenesis, astrocyte processes are highly mobile and may contribute to the stabilization of new synapses. As our understanding of the extent of their influence at the synapse unfolds, it is clear that astrocytes are well poised to modulate multiple aspects of synaptic plasticity.