Paolone G, Lamy D, Sarter M, Lee T (2011) Cognitive performance-associated increases in cholinergic neurotransmission also serve as a circadian signal to sustain performance-induced diurnal activity patterns. Neuroscience 2011 Abstracts 610.12. Society for Neuroscience, Washington, DC.
Summary: Daily practice of a sustained attention task (SAT) during the light phase of the light/dark cycle causes a stable, entrained, diurnal behavioral activity pattern (Gritton et al. 2009). As SAT performance is mediated by increases in cortical cholinergic neurotransmission, this experiment assessed levels of acetylcholine (ACh) release across the light and dark cycle of animals that previously performed the SAT at a fixed time. Circadian behavioral activity was recorded, and prefrontal ACh release was measured, using microdialysis, beginning on the third day following the last SAT session. SAT practice took place in either the light phase [ZT4], the dark phase [ZT16], or in a constant light condition [LL]. A control group practiced a daily fixed interval [FI-9] schedule of reinforcement at ZT4. A second control group was handled at randomly selected times but was neither water-deprived nor performed a task [NP]. Dialysates were collected, in a new environment, for 180 min total, beginning 90 min before the onset of prior task practice and again during the equivalent time period twelve hours later. For all animals, ACh release levels were higher during the dark phase. In SAT-performing animals, ACh levels increased for 45 min at ZT4 and ZT16. In addition, the ZT4 animals’ behavioral activity was robustly increased during this interval. Animals trained at ZT 4 reversed back to a nocturnal activity pattern 8-10 days after cessation of SAT practice, coinciding with the loss of the task time-synchronized cholinergic activity. In order to determine the necessity of these prior task period-synchronized release events for maintaining diurnal activity patterns, basal forerbain cholinergic neruons were lesioned by intra-basalis infusion of 192 IgG-saporin. As was expected, this lesion impaired SAT performance. Furthermore, following cessation of daily SAT practice, prior performance-period synchronized cholinergic release events were abolished in lesioned animals. Moreover, the lesion triggered a rapid post-performance return to a nocturnal acitvity pattern. Collectively, these results indicate that SAT performance-associated increases in prefrontal cholinergic activity not only support SAT performance but also contribute to cognition-induced diurnality. Furthermore, circadian control of cholinergic activation optimizes task performance as well as the generation of a cholinergic zeitgeber signal. In conclusions, the brain’s clocks and increases in cortical cholinergic neurotransmission interact bidirectionally to sustain cognitive performance and performance-evoked diurnal activity patterns.
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