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Using visual search to examine cholinergic contributions to feature binding in the rat.

Botly LC, De Rosa E (2009) Using visual search to examine cholinergic contributions to feature binding in the rat. Neuroscience 2009 Abstracts 873.26/EE13. Society for Neuroscience, Chicago, IL.

Summary: According to the feature integration theory of attention, feature binding is an attention-dependent process whereby the different features of an object are simultaneously integrated to form a unified whole. Using a rat digging paradigm that was faithful to this theory of attention, we have previously demonstrated that acetylcholine is critical to the attention-dependent processes required for both crossmodal and intramodal feature binding. Moreover, we demonstrated that cholinergic cells in brain regions that have been implicated in human feature binding, specifically frontal and parietal cortices, supported feature binding in rats. We have now translated the gold-standard test of human feature binding, visual search (VS), for rats. In the present study, sixteen male Long-Evans rats were trained to perform VS using touchscreen-equipped operant chambers and black-and-white shapes. Testing sessions comprised Feature-Search (no feature binding required) and Conjunctive-Search (feature binding required) trials using set sizes of four, six, and eight stimuli. Following acquisition of the VS task, eight rats received bilateral 192 IgG-Saporin immunotoxic lesions of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM) of the basal forebrain to reduce cholinergic afferentation of the neocortex. Importantly, there was no significant effect of lesion on accuracy for selecting the target stimulus. As expected, relative to sham-lesioned rats, NBM-lesioned rats took significantly longer to locate the target stimulus on Conjunctive-Search but not Feature-Search trials; thus reflecting a less efficient VS. These data confirm that cholinergic contributions from the NBM support feature binding using a rat analog of the VS paradigm.

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