The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is critical for memory formation, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. Clinical and animal model studies have shown that changes in PFC excitation and inhibition are important for cognitive functions as well as related disorders. Here, we discuss recent findings revealing the roles of the excitatory and inhibitory synaptic proteins neuroligin 1 (NLGN1) and NLGN2 in the PFC in memory formation and modulation of memory strength. We propose that shifts in NLGN1 and NLGN2 expression in specific excitatory and inhibitory neuronal subpopulations in response to experience regulate the dynamic processes of memory consolidation and strengthening. Because excitatory/inhibitory imbalances accompany neuropsychiatric disorders in which strength and flexibility of representations play important roles, understanding these mechanisms may suggest novel therapies.
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