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Interactions between noncholinergic basal forebrain neurons and muscarinic receptors in attentional processing

Kozikowski CT, Wolfe EL, Yanev PG, Burk JA (2014) Interactions between noncholinergic basal forebrain neurons and muscarinic receptors in attentional processing. Neuroscience 2014 Abstracts 263.16. Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC.

Summary: Numerous studies have provided evidence that basal forebrain corticopetal cholinergic neurons are critical for normal attentional performance. However, the role of noncholinergic basal forebrain neurons in attention has not been well-characterized. Moreover, evidence regarding interactions between cholinergic receptor activity and noncholinergic basal forebrain neurons remains scarce. In the present experiment, rats (n=15) were trained in a two-lever sustained attention task that required to discriminate between brief illumination of a centrally located panel light (500, 100, 25 ms) from trials when the light was not illuminated. After reaching criterion performance, rats received infusions into the basal forebrain of saline (n=7) or the immunotoxin, GAT1-saporin (n=8), to lesion noncholinergic neurons. After re-establishing performance after surgery, all rats received systemic administration of the muscarinic receptor antagonist, scopolamine (0, 0.05, 0.20 mg/kg, ip). When attentional testing resumed after surgical recovery, lesioned animals’ task performance did not significantly differ from sham-lesioned animals. However, following the highest dose of scopolamine, lesioned animals exhibited a larger decline in signal detection accuracy compared to sham-lesioned animals. Additionally, lesioned animals’ omission rate was higher during injection sessions compared to sham-lesioned animals. These results suggest that noncholinergic basal forebrain neurons are not necessary for performance in a well-trained attention task. However, loss of these neurons renders animals’ attentional performance more vulnerable to decreased cholinergic system stimulation. Finally, the lesion-induced increase in omissions may reflect a role for noncholinergic basal forebrain neurons in processes beyond attention.

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