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Neural cytoskeleton capabilities for learning and memory


This paper proposes a physical model involving the key structures within the neural cytoskeleton as major players in molecular-level processing of information required for learning and memory storage. In particular, actin filaments and microtubules are macromolecules having highly charged surfaces that enable them to conduct electric signals. The biophysical properties of these filaments relevant to the conduction of ionic current include a condensation of counterions on the filament surface and a nonlinear complex physical structure conducive to the generation of modulated waves. Cytoskeletal filaments are often directly connected with both ionotropic and metabotropic types of membrane-embedded receptors, thereby linking synaptic inputs to intracellular functions. Possible roles for cable-like, conductive filaments in neurons include intracellular information processing, regulating developmental plasticity, and mediating transport. The cytoskeletal proteins form a complex network capable of emergent information processing, and they stand to intervene between inputs to and outputs from neurons. In this manner, the cytoskeletal matrix is proposed to work with neuronal membrane and its intrinsic components (e.g., ion channels, scaffolding proteins, and adaptor proteins), especially at sites of synaptic contacts and spines. An information processing model based on cytoskeletal networks is proposed that may underlie certain types of learning and memory.

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