Prefrontal cortical (PFC) working memory functions depend on pyramidal cell networks that interconnect on dendritic spines. Recent research has revealed that the strength of PFC network connections can be rapidly and reversibly increased or decreased by molecular signaling events within slender, elongated spines: a process we term Dynamic Network Connectivity (DNC). This newly discovered form of neuroplasticity provides great flexibility in mental state, but also confers vulnerability and limits mental capacity. A remarkable number of genetic and/or environmental insults to DNC signaling cascades are associated with cognitive disorders such as schizophrenia and age-related cognitive decline. These insults can dysregulate network connections and erode higher cognitive abilities, leading to symptoms such as forgetfulness, susceptibility to interference, and disorganized thought and behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience