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Brain Res. 1996 Jul 1;725(2):231-40.

Nicotinic, muscarinic and dopaminergic actions in the ventral hippocampus and the nucleus accumbens: effects on spatial working memory in rats.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Acetylcholine (ACh) systems have been widely shown to be important for memory. In particular, ACh hippocampal neurons are critical for memory formation, though ACh innervation of other areas such as the nucleus accumbens may also be important. There has also been increasing interest in ACh and dopaminergic (DA) interactions with regard to short-term spatial memory. In a series of studies, we have found that ACh and DA agonists and antagonists given systemically interact to influence memory. The critical neural loci of these interactions are not currently known. In the present study, we used local infusion techniques to examine the role of ACh and DA transmitter systems in the nucleus accumbens and the ventral hippocampus on radial-arm maze (RAM) working memory performance. Into the nucleus accumbens of rats, we infused the nicotinic ACh agonist nicotine, the nicotinic ACh antagonist mecamylamine, the DA agonist apomorphine, or the DA antagonist haloperidol. Into the ventral hippocampus, we infused nicotine, mecamylamine, the muscarinic ACh agonist pilocarpine, or the muscarinic ACh antagonist, scopolamine. The nicotinic ACh and DA interaction was tested by a hippocampal infusion of mecamylamine alone or together with the DA D2 agonist quinpirole given via subcutaneous injection. The results confirmed that both nicotinic and muscarinic ACh receptors in the ventral hippocampus play a significant role in spatial working memory. Blockade of either nicotinic or muscarinic ACh receptors caused significant impairments in RAM choice accuracy. However, infusion of either nicotinic or muscarinic agonists failed to improve choice accuracy. The interaction of DA D2 systems in different with hippocampal nicotinic blockade than with general nicotinic blockade. Systemic administration of quinpirole potentiated the amnestic effect of mecamylamine infused into the ventral hippocampus, whereas it was previously found to reverse the amnestic effect of systemically administered mecamylamine. In contrast to the significant effects of mecamylamine in the hippocampus, no effects were found after infusion into the nucleus accumbens. Nicotine also was not found to have a significant effect on memory after intra-accumbens infusion. Neither the DA agonist apomorphine nor the DA antagonist haloperidol had a significant effect on memory after infusion into the nucleus accumbens. This study provides support for the involvement of nicotinic and muscarinic receptors in the ventral hippocampus in memory function. Ventral hippocampal nicotinic systems have significant interactions with D2 systems, but these differ from their systemic interactions. In contrast, nicotinic ACh and DA systems in the nucleus accumbens were not found in the current study to be important for working memory performance in the RAM.

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