The molecular pathways underlying the induction and maintenance of long-term synaptic plasticity have been extensively investigated revealing various mechanisms by which neurons control their synaptic strength. The dynamic nature of neuronal connections combined with plasticity-mediated long-lasting structural and functional alterations provide valuable insights into neuronal encoding processes as molecular substrates of not only learning and memory but potentially other sensory, motor and behavioural functions that reflect previous experience. However, one key element receiving little attention in the study of synaptic plasticity is the role of neuromodulators, which are known to orchestrate neuronal activity on brain-wide, network and synaptic scales. We aim to review current evidence on the mechanisms by which certain modulators, namely dopamine, acetylcholine, noradrenaline and serotonin, control synaptic plasticity induction through corresponding metabotropic receptors in a pathway-specific manner. Lastly, we propose that neuromodulators control plasticity outcomes through steering glutamatergic transmission, thereby gating its induction and maintenance.
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- Synaptic plasticity