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Learn Mem. 2004 Jan-Feb;11(1):50-9.

Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in sensory cortex.

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Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine, Irvine, California 92697, USA.


Acetylcholine release in sensory neocortex contributes to higher-order sensory function, in part by activating nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). Molecular studies have revealed a bewildering array of nAChR subtypes and cellular actions; however, there is some consensus emerging about the major nAChR subtypes and their functions in sensory cortex. This review first describes the systems-level effects of activating nAChRs in visual, somatosensory, and auditory cortex, and then describes, as far as possible, the underlying cellular and synaptic mechanisms. A related goal is to examine if sensory cortex can be considered a model system for cortex in general, because the use of sensory stimuli to activate neural circuits physiologically is helpful for understanding mechanisms of systems-level function and plasticity. A final goal is to highlight the emerging role of nAChRs in developing sensory cortex, and the adverse impact of early nicotine exposure on subsequent sensory-cognitive function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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