Spatial working memory and the brainstem cholinergic innervation to the anterior thalamus.
Mitchell AS., Dalrymple-Alford JC., Christie MA.
The anteroventral thalamic nucleus (AV) has a role in spatial memory, but the influence of the prominent brainstem cholinergic projection to this region is unknown. Here, spatial memory in a 12-arm radial maze was examined after 0.15 microl bilateral AV infusions of scopolamine. In part one, rats visited six arms singly (the phase 1 arms) and, after a 10 min delay, were allowed free choice to both phase 1 arms and the remaining six baited arms (phase 2 arms). Scopolamine (10 microg) administered during the delay increased errors to both phase 1 and phase 2 arms, whereas PBS infusions increased phase 1 arm errors only. The PBS effect was the result of inserting the internal cannulas alone and not the infusion. The same dose of scopolamine (10 microg) infused before maze testing (part two: no phase 1 arms, no delay) also impaired spatial memory over and above the effects of both PBS and no-infusion, which did not differ markedly. Part two also showed that choice latency and choice strategies were unaffected by PBS and scopolamine. Cannulation and infusion procedures in both parts one and two did not produce any negative carryover effects across multiple control (no internal cannula) sessions, and a trypan blue manipulation indicated that infusions were restricted to the AV region. This study provides the first direct evidence that the brainstem cholinergic innervation to the limbic thalamus influences learning and memory, which may have important implications for human neurological conditions such as alcohol-related disorders and schizophrenia.