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Cholinergic inputs to the auditory cortex can modulate sensory processing and regulate stimulus-specific plasticity according to the behavioural state of the subject. In order to understand how acetylcholine achieves this, it is essential to elucidate the circuitry by which cholinergic inputs influence the cortex. In this study, we described the distribution of cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain and their inputs to the auditory cortex of the ferret, a species used increasingly in studies of auditory learning and plasticity. Cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain, visualized by choline acetyltransferase and p75 neurotrophin receptor immunocytochemistry, were distributed through the medial septum, diagonal band of Broca, and nucleus basalis magnocellularis. Epipial tracer deposits and injections of the immunotoxin ME20.4-SAP (monoclonal antibody specific for the p75 neurotrophin receptor conjugated to saporin) in the auditory cortex showed that cholinergic inputs originate almost exclusively in the ipsilateral nucleus basalis. Moreover, tracer injections in the nucleus basalis revealed a pattern of labelled fibres and terminal fields that resembled acetylcholinesterase fibre staining in the auditory cortex, with the heaviest labelling in layers II/III and in the infragranular layers. Labelled fibres with small en-passant varicosities and simple terminal swellings were observed throughout all auditory cortical regions. The widespread distribution of cholinergic inputs from the nucleus basalis to both primary and higher level areas of the auditory cortex suggests that acetylcholine is likely to be involved in modulating many aspects of auditory processing.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Neurosci

Publication Date





2922 - 2940


acetylcholine, immunocytochemistry, immunotoxin, neuromodulation, nucleus basalis, p75 neurotrophin receptor, Animals, Auditory Cortex, Basal Forebrain, Choline O-Acetyltransferase, Female, Ferrets, Immunohistochemistry, Male, Neural Pathways, Neuroanatomical Tract-Tracing Techniques, Neurons, Receptor, Nerve Growth Factor