Shaping the learning curve: Epigenetic dynamics in neural plasticity

Zohar Z. Bronfman, Simona Ginsburg, Eva Jablonka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A key characteristic of learning and neural plasticity is state-dependent acquisition dynamics reflected by the non-linear learning curve that links increase in learning with practice. Here we propose that the manner by which epigenetic states of individual cells change during learning contributes to the shape of the neural and behavioral learning curve. We base our suggestion on recent studies showing that epigenetic mechanisms such as DNA methylation, histone acetylation, and RNA-mediated gene regulation are intimately involved in the establishment and maintenance of long-term neural plasticity, reflecting specific learning-histories and influencing future learning. Our model, which is the first to suggest a dynamic molecular account of the shape of the learning curve, leads to several testable predictions regarding the link between epigenetic dynamics at the promoter, gene-network, and neural-network levels. This perspective opens up new avenues for therapeutic interventions in neurological pathologies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number55
JournalFrontiers in Integrative Neuroscience
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - 7 Jul 2014


  • DNA methylation
  • Epigenetics
  • Learning curve
  • Neural plasticity
  • Non-coding small RNAs


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