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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 2006 Jul;86(1):47-65. Epub 2006 Feb 8.

Rapid induction of specific associative behavioral memory by stimulation of the nucleus basalis in the rat.

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Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-3800, USA.


Hypothesized circuitry enabling behavioral memory formation can be tested by its direct activation in the absence of normal experience. Neuromodulation via the cortical release of acetylcholine by the nucleus basalis (NB) is hypothesized to be sufficient to induce specific, associative behavioral memory. Previously, we found that tone paired with stimulation of the nucleus basalis (NBs) for 3000 trials over 15 days induced such memory, supporting the hypothesis. However, as standard associative memory can be established much more rapidly, we asked whether NB-induced memory develops rapidly. Adult male Sprague-Dawley rats, trained and tested in the same calm, waking state, were divided into Paired (n=5) and control (n=4) groups, each of which received a single session of 200 trials of an 8.0 kHz conditioned stimulus (CS) either paired with NBs or with unpaired presentation of NBs. Respiration, cardiac activity, and evoked potentials in the primary auditory cortex (ACx) were recorded. Memory and its degree of specificity were assessed 24 h later by presenting tones of various frequencies (1-15 kHz) in the absence of NBs to yield behavioral frequency generalization gradients. Behavioral responses to test tones consisted of interruption of ongoing respiration and changes in heart rate. Post-training behavioral generalization gradients exhibited response peaks centered on the CS frequency for the Paired group alone. Tone evoked potentials from the ACx also developed CS-specific plasticity. The findings indicate that NB induction of specific behavioral associative memory, like normal memory, can develop rapidly and is accompanied by specific cortical plasticity, supporting the view that NB engagement during normal learning produces memory.

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