The past few decades have seen an explosion in our understanding of the molecular basis of learning and memory. The majority of these studies in mammals focused on post-synaptic signal transduction cascades involved in post-synaptic long-lasting plasticity. Until recently, relatively little work examined the role of presynaptic proteins in learning and memory in complex systems. The synaptic cleft figuratively represents a "great divide" between our knowledge of post- versus presynaptic involvement in learning and memory. While great strides have been made in our understanding of presynaptic proteins, we know very little of how presynaptically expressed forms of short- and long-term plasticity participate in information processing and storage. The paucity of cognitive behavioral research in the area of presynaptic proteins, however, is in stark contrast to the plethora of information concerning presynaptic protein involvement in neurotransmitter release, in modulation of release, and in both short- and long-term forms of presynaptic plasticity. It is now of great interest to begin to link the extensive literature on presynaptic proteins and presynaptic plasticity to cognitive behavior. In the future there is great promise with these approaches for identifying new targets in the treatment of cognitive disorders. This review article briefly surveys current knowledge on the role of presynaptic proteins in learning and memory in mammals and suggests future directions in learning and memory research on the presynaptic rim of the "great divide." © 2005 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.