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Neuron. 2003 Jun 5;38(5):819-29.

Lesions of the Basal forebrain cholinergic system impair task acquisition and abolish cortical plasticity associated with motor skill learning.

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Department of Neurosciences, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093, USA.


The contribution of the basal forebrain cholinergic system in mediating plasticity of cortical sensorimotor representations was examined in the context of normal learning. The effects of specific basal forebrain cholinergic lesions upon cortical reorganization associated with learning a skilled motor task were investigated, addressing, for the first time, the functional consequences of blocking cortical map plasticity. Results demonstrate that disrupting basal forebrain cholinergic function disrupts cortical map reorganization and impairs motor learning. Cholinergic lesions do not impair associative fear learning or overall sensorimotor function. These results support the hypothesis that the basal forebrain cholinergic system may be specifically implicated in forms of learning requiring plasticity of cortical representations.

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