Astrocytes have been generally believed to perform mainly homeostatic and supportive functions for neurons in the central nervous system. Recently, a growing body of evidence suggests previously unrecognized and surprising functions for astrocytes, including regulation of synaptic formation, transmission and plasticity, all of which are considered as the infrastructure for information processing and memory formation and stabilization. This review discusses the involvement of astrocytes in memory functions and the possible mechanisms that may underlie it. We review the important breakthroughs obtained in this field, as well as some of the controversies that arose from the past difficulty to manipulate these cells in a cell type-specific and non-invasive manner. Finally, we present new research avenues based on the advanced tools becoming available in recent years: optogenetics and chemogenetics, and the potential ways in which these tools may further illuminate the role of astrocytes in memory processes.
Astrocytes in Memory Function: Pioneering Findings and Future Directions
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