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Cereb Cortex. 2012 May;22(5):1007-15. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhr159. Epub 2011 Aug 1.

Modulation of the mouse prefrontal cortex activation by neuronal nicotinic receptors during novelty exploration but not by exploration of a familiar environment.

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Unité de Génétique Humaine et Fonctions Cognitives, Département des Neurosciences, Institut Pasteur, 75015 Paris, France.


Organization of locomotor behavior is altered in mice knockout for the β2 subunit of the nicotinic receptor-β2-/- mice-during novelty exploration. We investigated the neuronal basis of this alteration by measuring activation of the immediate early gene c-fos in the brains of wild-type (WT) and β2-/- mice after exploration of a novel or a familiar environment. Results show 1) no constitutive difference between WT and β2-/- mice in c-fos gene expression in any brain region, 2) novelty exploration triggered activation of the hippocampus and the reward circuit while exploration of a familiar environment produced increased activation in the amygdala, and 3) in β2-/- mice, exploration of novelty, but not familiarity, induced an increase in activation in the prelimbic prefrontal cortex (PFC) compared with WT mice. c-Fos immunoreactivity after different stages of learning in a maze increased similarly in the prelimbic area of both WT and β2-/- mice, while their performance differed. In WT mice, exploration of a novel environment triggered an increase in c-Fos expression in the reward circuit and the hippocampus, while in β2-/- mice, the amygdala and the motor cortex were additionally activated. We also highlight the role of nicotinic receptors during activation of the PFC, specifically during free exploration of a novel environment.

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