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Durham University



Publication details for Dr Alexander Easton

Easton, A., Fitchett, A., Eacott, M.J. & Baxter, M.G. (2011). Medial septal cholinergic neurons are necessary for context-place memory but not episodic-like memory. Hippocampus 21(9): 1021-1027.

Author(s) from Durham


Loss of cholinergic cortical input is associated with diseases in which episodic memory impairment is a prominent feature, but the degree to which this neurochemical lesion can account for memory impairment in humans with neurodegenerative diseases remains unclear. Removal of cholinergic input to hippocampus impairs some of its functions in memory, perhaps by reducing the plasticity of information representation within the hippocampus, but the role of cholinergic hippocampal input in episodic-like memories has not been investigated. To address this question, we tested rats with selective lesions of basal forebrain neurons in the medial septum and vertical limb of the diagonal band (MS/VDB), which contains hippocampal-projecting cholinergic neurons, on a task of integrated memory for objects, places, and contexts (“what–where–which” memory). This task serves as a rodent model of human episodic memory (episodic-like memory) and is sensitive to damage to the hippocampal system. Rats with lesions of cholinergic MS/VDB neurons performed as well on the what–where–which task as controls, but were impaired in a task that simply required them to associate places with contexts (“where–which” memory). Thus, episodic-like memories that rely on the hippocampus do not require cholinergic neuromodulation to be formed. Nevertheless, some more specific aspects of where–which memory, which may be more dependent on the plasticity of hippocampal spatial representations, require acetylcholine. These results suggest that cholinergic projections to hippocampus are not necessary for episodic memory and, furthermore, that hippocampal spatial representations may be to some extent dissociable from episodic memory function.

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