Formation of a new memory requires plasticity at the synaptic level. However, it has also been shown that the consolidation and the maintenance of such a new memory involve processes that necessitate active mRNA at the nucleus of the cell. How can robust changes in synaptic efficacy specifically drive new transcription and translation of new gene transcripts, and thus transform an otherwise transient plasticity into a long-lasting and stable one? In this article, we highlight the conceptual advance that was gained by the discovery of a potent Synaptic Activity-Responsive Element (SARE) found ∼7 kb upstream of the transcription initiation site of the neuronal immediate early gene Arc. The unique genomic structure of SARE, which contained adjacent and cooperative binding sites for three major activity-dependent transcription factors within a 100-bp locus, was associated with an unusual responsiveness to neuronal stimuli. Taken together, these findings shed light on a new class of transcriptional sensor with enhanced sensitivity to synaptic activity.