Learning and memory are fundamental but highly complex functions of the brain. They rely on multiple mechanisms including the processing of sensory information, memory formation, maintenance of short- and long-term memory, memory retrieval and memory extinction. Recent experiments provide strong evidence that, besides neurons, astrocytes crucially contribute to these higher brain functions. However, the complex interplay of astrocytes and neurons in local neuron–glia assemblies is far from being understood. Although important basic cellular principles that govern and link neuronal and astrocytic cellular functions have been established, additional mechanisms clearly continue to emerge. In this short essay, we first review current technologies allowing the experimenter to explore the role of astrocytes in behaving animals, with focus on spatial memory. We then discuss astrocytic signaling mechanisms and their role in learning and memory. We also reveal gaps in our knowledge that currently prevent a comprehensive understanding of how astrocytes contribute to acquisition, storage and retrieval of memory by modulating neuronal signaling in local circuits.

You do not currently have access to this content.