Cholinergic lesions produce task-selective effects on delayed matching to position and configural association learning related to response pattern and strategy



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Journal Article

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Publication Title

Neurobiology of Learning and Memory





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192IgG-saporin, Choline acetyltransferase, Learning, Operant conditioning, T-maze


192IgG-saporin (SAP) was used to selectively destroy cholinergic neurons in the rostral basal forebrain (e.g., medial septum (MS) and vertical limb of the diagonal band of Broca (VDB)) and/or the caudal basal forebrain (e.g., nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM)) of ovariectomized Sprague-Dawley rats. The effects of these lesions on two different cognitive tasks, a delayed matching to position (DMP) T-maze task, and a configural association (CA) operant conditioning task, were evaluated and compared. Injecting SAP into either the MS or NBM significantly impaired acquisition of the DMP task. Analysis showed that the effects were due largely to an affect on response patterns adopted by the rats during training, as opposed to an effect on working memory performance. Notably, the impairment in DMP acquisition did not correlate with the degree of cholinergic denervation of the hippocampus. Despite the deficit, most animals eventually learned the task and reached criterion; however by the end of training, controls and animals that received SAP into either the MS or NBM appeared more likely to use an allocentric place strategy to solve the task, whereas animals that received SAP into both the MS and NBM were more likely to use an egocentric response strategy. Cholinergic lesions also produced a small but significant affect on acquisition of the CA task, but only with respect to response time, and only in the SAP-NBM-treated animals. SAP-NBM lesions also produced small but significant impairments in both the number of responses and response time during the acquisition of simple associations, possibly reflecting an effect on alertness or attention. Notably, the effects on CA acquisition were small, and like the effects on DMP acquisition did not correlate with the degree of cholinergic denervation of the hippocampus. We conclude that selective basal forebrain cholinergic lesions produce learning deficits that are task specific, and that cholinergic denervation of either the frontal cortex or hippocampus can affect response patterns and strategy in ways that affect learning, without necessarily reflecting deficits in working memory performance. © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Open Access

Green Accepted