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Neurobiol Learn Mem. 1997 May;67(3):214-27.

The effects of selective cholinergic basal forebrain lesions and aging upon expectancy in the rat.

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Arizona Research Laboratories, University of Arizona, Tucson 85724, USA.


The effects of selective cholinergic cell loss within the basal forebrain (BF) were determined using a task that requires shifting of attention between two visual stimuli. Discriminability between two stimuli and response bias were determined in young and old F-344 rats given BF injections of IgG-192 saporin (100 ng). The lesion reduced ChAT activity in the frontal and parietal cortices, hippocampus, and olfactory bulbs. The lesion did not significantly alter Na+/K(+)-ATPase activity in cortex, hippocampus, or olfactory bulbs, or endogenous levels of neuropeptide Y and neurokinin B within the BF. The BF lesions impaired both stimulus discriminability and response bias in young and old rats. The BF lesions had a significantly greater effect upon stimulus discriminability and response bias in aged rats, compared to young rats, only when the stimulus duration was very brief, i.e., when the task was most difficult to solve. At longer stimulus durations, aging and lesions showed no interaction. The results suggest that the selective loss of cholinergic cells in the BF, but not normal aging, impairs the ability to discriminate between independent sensory stimuli. The loss of these cells confers a response bias in simple operant tasks involving motor responses to reward-related visual stimuli.

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