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Book Forum: GENETICS AND NEUROSCIENCE   |    
Mechanisms of Memory
LAURA A. FLASHMAN, Ph.D.
Am J Psychiatry 2005;162:2201-2201. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.162.11.2201
View Author and Article Information
Lebanon, N.H.

By J. David Sweatt, Ph.D. New York, Elsevier Academic Press, 2003, 400 pp., $79.95.

In the introduction to this book, Larry Squire, Ph.D., points out that the first book called Mechanisms of Memory, by the neuroscientist E. Roy John, was published in 1967 (1). Squire highlights the considerable progress that has been made in understanding memory systems, including a host of new tools, ideas, and discoveries, by comparing the foundation from which Dr. John wrote with the state of the field in the 2000s. Dr. John’s book was based on localization of function, information provided by assemblies of neurons, and electrophysiological correlates of learning and memory. The current volume is based on the development of animal model systems for studying the genetics and synaptic changes underlying behavioral memory, the discovery of long-term potentiation, the concept of multiple memory systems, and delineation of both cellular and molecular contributions to neural plasticity.

The book is organized in a way that provides a foundation for thinking about the molecular and cellular underpinnings of synaptic plasticity and information storage, with particular emphasis on the hippocampus and its role in declarative and spatial learning. Examples from other anatomical and behavioral systems are also included. Dr. Sweatt progresses from well-established facts and background, to a description of current work and thinking in each area, to a final section he clearly indicates should be considered "speculation." Thus, after a brief introduction to the basics of learning and memory at the psychological level, chapters focus on rodent behavioral learning and memory models (chapter 2), the role of the hippocampus in multimodal information processing and memory consolidation (chapter 3), aspects of long-term potentiation (chapters 4–6 and 9), biochemical mechanisms for short- and long-term information storage at the cellular level (chapters 7 and 8), inherited and acquired disorders of memory (chapters 10 and 11), and the chemistry of perpetual memory (chapter 12). Thus, the reader goes from a basic background of learning theory and synaptic physiology, to a detailed discussion of the biochemical mechanisms of long-term changes in synaptic function and information storage, to consideration of the molecular basis of learning and memory disorders.

The intended users of this book include advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers interested in learning, and it is well designed as a textbook to be used in psychology, biology, and neuroscience programs. Dr. Sweatt’s goal that the book be targeted to active researchers in the fields of learning and memory, at all stages of their career development, may be somewhat ambitious. One unique aspect of this book is that it surveys learning and memory from a molecular level through complex behavioral levels, but this means that it is best viewed as a survey tool. Dr. Sweatt provides an organizational framework for thinking about synaptic plasticity and memory that incorporates biochemical complexity into our conceptualization and understanding. He clearly articulates throughout the book why an understanding of the molecular basis of memory is important to those of us working in the field, since all biological processes are subserved by biochemical phenomena.

The book is well written and includes interesting and illustrative text inserts as well as colorful figures with detailed explanations. Mechanisms of Memory is a successful integration of recent discoveries and technological advances applied to learning and memory at many different levels that will appeal to its target audience of advanced undergraduates and graduates across a number of disciplines.

John ER: Mechanisms of Memory. New York, Academic Press, 1967
 
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References

John ER: Mechanisms of Memory. New York, Academic Press, 1967
 
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