MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of short non-coding RNAs that primarily regulate protein synthesis through reversible translational repression or mRNA degradation. MiRNAs can act by translational control of transcription factors or via direct action on the chromatin, and thereby contribute to the non-genetic control of gene–environment interactions. MiRNAs that regulate components of pathways required for learning and memory further modulate the influence of epigenetics on cognition in the normal and diseased brain. This review summarizes recent data exemplifying the known roles of miRNAs in memory formation in different model organisms, and describes how neuronal plasticity regulates miRNA biogenesis, activity and degradation. It also examines the relevance of miRNAs for memory impairment in human, using recent clinical observations related to neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases, and discusses the potential mechanisms by which these miRNAs may contribute to memory disorders. This article is part of the Special Issue entitled ‘Neuroepigenetic Disorders’.