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Neuroscience. 2001;106(1):43-53.

Effects of novelty and habituation on acetylcholine, GABA, and glutamate release from the frontal cortex and hippocampus of freely moving rats.

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Department of Preclinical and Clinical Pharmacology, University of Florence, Viale Pieraccini 6, 50139 Florence, Italy.


The involvement of the forebrain cholinergic system in arousal, learning and memory has been well established. Other neurotransmitters such as GABA and glutamate may be involved in the mechanisms of memory by modulating the forebrain cholinergic pathways. We studied the activity of cortical and hippocampal cholinergic, GABAergic and glutamatergic systems during novelty and habituation in the rat using microdialysis. After establishing basal release of the neurotransmitters, the animals were transferred to a novel environment and allowed to explore it twice consecutively for 30 min (60 min apart; exploration I and II). The motor activity was monitored. Samples were collected throughout the experiment and the release of acetylcholine (ACh), GABA and glutamate was measured. During the two consecutive explorations of the arena, cortical and hippocampal, ACh release showed a significant tetrodotoxin-dependent increase which was higher during exploration I than II. The effect was more pronounced and longer-lasting in the hippocampus than in the cortex. Cortical GABA release increased significantly only during exploration II, while hippocampal GABA release did not increase during either exploration. Motor activity was higher during the first 10 min of exploration I and II and then gradually decreased during the further 20 min. Both cortical and hippocampal ACh release were positively correlated with motor activity during exploration II, but not during I. During exploration II, cortical GABA release was inversely correlated, while hippocampal GABA release was positively correlated to motor activity. No change in cortical and hippocampal glutamate release was observed. In summary, ACh released by the animal placed in a novel environment seems to have two components, one related to motor activity and one related to attention, anxiety and fear. This second component disappears in the familiar environment, where ACh release is directly related to motor activity. The negative relationship between cortical GABA levels and motor activity may indicate that cortical GABAergic activity is involved in habituation.

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